Women in the Industry - October 2018


International Extracurriculars

Evelyne Villame credits work, inside and beyond the office, for her career

by Prasana William

When Evelyne Villame joined the attractions industry in 1988, her friends thought the concept of a theme park would never survive in France. “I thought I could still afford to make a foolish decision and settle down later,” she says. “Guess what? I never did.” Three decades in, she retains her passion for the people and innovative spirit that define the industry.

Villame started in the industry with Parc Astérix and has led marketing strategy, brand, and product development with France’s Compagnie des Alpes, Musée Grévin, and other European facilities. She branched into family entertainment centers (FECs) with La Boîte aux Enfants and has developed 11 facilities with her business partner, including the Gulli Parc chain. In the past two years, she has also launched E-Virtuality, a virtual/augmented reality experience. “All across the industry, at whatever level, adaptation and creativity are the power [behind] good economics,” she says.

Villame has been an active member of IAAPA—volunteering on the education subcommittee and FEC committee—and counts serving the industry as one of her most significant career accomplishments. In 2001, she was honored with the IAAPA Meritorious Service Award along with an international group of IAAPA members. The group played a vital role in promoting IAAPA as a global organization and supported the creation of the IAAPA Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) office currently in Brussels. The international nature of her work is what she credits as having the greatest impact on her career.

IAAPA’s international connections also played an important part in building her network. She advises finding important business relationships by joining industry, and non-industry, associations. There’s no secret to building a network of fellow women in the industry; she says it starts with getting to know and appreciate them “just as I did for my network of men.”

Villame still sees room for the industry to grow in regard to gender roles. “On the facilities/operator side, I see more women in traditional men’s roles like maintenance, but there are still fewer women in manufacturing firms and…a great lack of women in the digital/gaming/augmented and virtual reality industry,” she says. 

She suggests companies could create more junior positions to prepare women to take on senior roles. According to research from LeanIn.org, women are underrepresented in the “positions with profit-and-loss responsibility and/or a focus on core operations” that lead to the C-suite. Creating room for women in these types of roles places them in the pipeline to senior leadership. 

Though she has moved up in her career, Villame can still recognize the challenges that faced her before joining senior leadership: proving the usefulness of her expertise, gaining the respect of her team, and promoting herself. “I overcame it all through work, consistency, a tenacious attitude, and with the support of my boss and family,” she says and advises: “Be yourself and go for it.”

Learn more about Evelyne Villame’s approach to leadership and career online at www.IAAPA.org/WomenLeaders.