Thursday, September 4, 2014

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Elizabeth Milovidov - Part 2

Last week, I presented Part 1 of this Black Paris Profile™ on Elizabeth Milovidov - an attorney whose passion is protecting the rights of children around the world.

Today, I bring you Part 2 of Elizabeth's profile, which features details of her professional activities in Paris, Brussels, and the European Union at large.


Elizabeth Milovidov
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Milovidov

When Elizabeth moved to Paris, she had already completed a BA in Economics / International Area Studies at UCLA, an MA in Political Science at UC Davis, and a JD at UC Davis. Her decision to pursue yet another two degrees (MBA and MA in International Trade at European University) was a strategic decision that allowed her to obtain a French visa. Because she has always loved school and the academic environment, this was not burdensome.

The MBA opened several career options for her:

While completing my MBA / MA, I went to the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris and ordered the listings of all the American companies doing business in France. I sent out over 700 resumes. Yes, you read correctly – seven hundred. And I received more than 690 rejection and “we’ll keep your resume on file” letters. But the French subsidiary of one American company, Rockwell Automotive, decided to give me chance. I was hired in October 1997 as Administration Manager in the Paris office, with European responsibility. It was a chance in a lifetime, but I do believe the underlying reason why I was hired was because I was an attorney who was seeking new challenges.

But 5 degrees still were not enough!  She decided to pursue a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy - in English - at American Graduate School: International Relations in Paris.

When my last position as General Counsel in a French company in the South of France transferred the headquarters to the United States, I knew that I wanted to stay in France. I was newly married and realized that my business and legal skills were more marketable in Paris, so my husband and I moved back to Paris. Once I was laid-off from the company, I enrolled in the PhD program and began my Parisian job search. Within a year of completing my course work, I was offered another position in a French company in Paris as General Counsel – Operations. I then juggled my job, arrival of two sons and completing my thesis – which also explains why it took me so long.

While her law degree proved invaluable by opening doors and providing credibility that her other degrees did not, and her MBA provided a business angle to her legal background, Elizabeth's PhD allowed her to establish herself as a professor in France and teach at several universities. Because her dissertation on International Child Rights was on a subject related to International Law, she is able to teach at top caliber French law schools.

The degree took six years to complete: one year of coursework followed by five years of research and writing. The research and writing was done in spurts and flurries, but by 2011, she had a 4-year old, a 2-year old, and a completed and defended doctoral dissertation. While her French is fluent, she says she had more polished professional French when she was working in French companies. As a child rights consultant and law professor, most of her days are now spent speaking in English.

The combination of her PhD and her JD landed her a position at the University of Geneva this summer, where she taught Child Rights Law and Internet Safety.

Elizabeth became passionate about children's rights in 2003, when she married and began thinking about having a family. She wasn’t quite sure what direction to take, but she kept reading and researching and learning. In 2005, when she started her PhD program, it was clear that she wanted to do my dissertation project on children’s rights.

She began to focus on Internet safety for children when she realized that she loves the law, children, and the Internet and technology. The last two companies that she worked for in France were high-tech Internet companies, so it was easy to combine her interests. Still, it took her 3 years to focus exclusively on Internet safety.

She founded Crossing Guard Consulting because she wanted to work in this burgeoning field that was also her passion. What better way to work on exactly what she wanted to do than to create her own company?

It was a real challenge for Elizabeth to create a digital identity - The Crossing Guard: protecting children on the digital highway - and then become that persona. She used a blog, Facebook and Twitter to help with her outreach. She finds it enriching to see people "liking" something she shared and writing in to request help.

Now she is focused on writing free eBooks to empower parents in the digital age:

So many parents are frustrated and scared of technology, but my purpose is to tell them: "You’ve got this. Use your offline parenting skills online. Don’t panic,  Parent!"  Even with all of this new technology and ever changing social media challenges, parents can do it.

Crossing Guard Consulting is a small, global organization through which Elizabeth is currently providing child rights and internet safety consulting services to the European Commission. She has projects pending with the Council of Europe and the UK. She also guest blogs for Family Online Safety Institute (US) and the OECD while maintaining close contacts with some of the leaders in Internet safety in the US and in Europe. She has staff contributing from the United States and France.

As Facebook and target the African market for new clients, Elizabeth anticipates that Crossing Guard Consulting will become active in Africa. She says there is an even greater need to protect children in Africa and that her organization can easily do so with all the lessons learned in the past 10 years.

Elizabeth has already had the pleasure and privilege of utilizing her considerable skills and experience in Africa through the US State Department. Stephanie Bombrun (creator of the successful blog "La Mom"), who is a good friend and who is also very committed women’s empowerment, counseled Elizabeth on social media practices and is a true believer in the Crossing Guard. When she learned that Elizabeth was speaking at the American Library of Paris and at French schools on Children’s Rights and Internet Safety, she introduced Elizabeth to Sara Devlin, director of Africa Regional Services (ARS). Devlin immediately proposed some speaking engagements and video series for Elizabeth.

Stephanie Bombrun (left), Elizabeth Milovidov (center), and Sara Devlin (right) at Africa Regional Services
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Milovidov

ARS is working under President Obama’s initiative to improve human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights in Africa. Enter the Crossing Guard.

In July, ARS sponsored a trip to Senegal where Elizabeth led two 2-day training session / workshops on Gender, Leadership and Women's Empowerment. These were co-sponsored by the US Embassy and an association of women professors. The first was held in St. Louis (former capital of Senegal when it was a French colony) and the second was in Dakar, the current capital.

Panel discussion at U. S. Embassy event in Dakar, Senegal
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Milovidov

Elizabeth described this as:

... an awesome experience bringing together women professionals from academia, medicine, law and more, but I think I was the one who reaped the most benefits as I noted that women in France, in the US, in Senegal all juggle the same issues: how to create a satisfying balance between family, work and social activities.

Elizabeth still belongs to the California and DC bars. She says there are hundreds of American attorneys in Paris: some practicing law "in-house" at law firms, others in companies, and still others are teaching. She says it's important to note that American attorneys cannot litigate in France unless they take the French bar.

For US and other non-French attorneys who would like to live and work in Paris, Elizabeth has the following advice:

Learn French. Understand the cultural norms. Take the Paris or Versailles Bar. Work in an international law firm in your own country that has offices in France. Attend conferences in Paris. Create your network – used LinkedIn. Create a social media profile that demonstrates your desire to come to France or work internationally. Have a strong support system. Be patient.

Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

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