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Women on Boards - 2nd Progress Report - Country in Focus FRANCE

What is this report about?

As part of the European Women’s Lobby’s Beijing+20 focus month on ‘Women in Decision-Making’, February sees the launch of the EWL’s latest report on women on boards, entitled ‘Women on Boards in Europe: Second Progress Report. Cracks in the glass ceiling or just a trick of the light?’

This Second Progress Report is part of the EWL’s ongoing work to ensure that parity at all levels of decision-making becomes reality. It tracks developments, progress, and stagnation regarding women on company boards in 11 European countries, including France, since the EWL’s first Progress Report on Women on Boards in 2012 – which was awarded the European Public Affairs Award for Report of the Year 2012.

What’s happening in Europe regarding women on boards?

Since the 2012 report, and ongoing campaigning in favour of binding legislation regarding gender parity on company boards across the EU, an EU Directive which aims to attain a 40% gender balance on non-executive boards in large, publicly listed companies across the EU has been proposed and is currently under consideration by the Council. Commissioner for Gender Equality Věra Jourová has committed to seeing the Directive passed within 2015.

We therefore find ourselves at a key moment to reflect on the developments in this area since 2012 across Europe and to learn from this reflection and analysis in order to best inform current and future policy-making in this area.

What has France done to crack the glass ceiling since 2012?

Positive steps

  • Thanks to the 2011 Copé-Zimmermann law which set the target of 20% female board representation by 2014 and 40% by 2017 for all listed companies and companies that have 500+ employees and a revenue of €50m or more, there has been substantial progress regarding women’s presence on boards in France. Moreover, this law was extended to apply to companies with 250+ employees or those with revenue of €50m or more on 4 August 2014.
  • In June 2013, the companies listed on the CAC40 and the big, mid and small cap companies met and exceeded the intermediary 2014 target of 20%
  • More than 9 out of 10 French companies have at least one woman on the board and over half of French firms have at least three female directors

Challenges

  • The law only applies to non-executive directorship positions (in a one-tier system, members of the conseil d’administration, and in a two-tier system, members of the conseil de surveillance), and while the female proportion of non-executive directors in France is well above the EU-28 average, the proportion of female executive directors falls below the EU-28 average
  • There is not a single female CEO among the European Commission data set

EWL Member Statement

‘The Copé-Zimmermann law does not apply to the Comex (management committees in a two-tier system), which explains the slow progress in this area. Among the CAC40 companies, there is not a single female CEO. Isabelle Kocher may take over from Gérard Mestrallet, current CEO of GDF Suez, in May 2016, where she would be the only female CEO in the CAC40. It is clear that parity on company boards is necessary in Europe in order to share business decisions between men and women. The Copé-Zimmerman law has allowed, and continues to allow, for progress to be made in France. Let us all try to make progress in Europe, with all the countries that wish to advance equality between men and women, and particularly, professional equality. All citizens want it and businesses are starting to do it!’

Olga Trostiansky, French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby, France

The way forward

The report makes five evidence-based recommendations, which should be taken into account as the future policy landscape regarding women in decision-making at the EU level and the national level is determined:

  1. Binding measures must apply to both executive and non-executive boards
  2. Further action is needed to increase proportion of female CEOs
  3. Effective measures require regular monitoring and intermediary targets
  4. Measures must be enforced with firm sanctions
  5. Quotas must be introduced as part of a comprehensive policy package that seeks to address the fundamental causes of women’s underrepresentation in economic decision-making

Gender parity in positions of economic power is of vital importance when it comes to justice, democracy and sustainable growth. Diverse decision-makers and leaders better represent, better understand, and better respond to the desires and needs of women and men in their diversity – and will be more open to cultivating a new style of leadership which will lead to much-needed transformative social change. As an important step forward towards a progressive, sustainable and inclusive Europe, the European Women’s Lobby demands the adoption and implementation of the current proposed EU Directive on women on boards without further delay. Moreover, we strongly encourage national governments to go above and beyond its requirements and to implement stronger measures to achieve gender parity at all levels of decision-making.

Sources:
Gazette du Palais, 5 August 2014.

L’Association des Femmes Diplômées d’Expertise Comptable Administrateurs (AFECA)
GMI Ratings’ 2013 Women on Boards Survey p12

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