French parliament unanimously votes in favour of gender quotas for executive leadership

French parliament unanimously votes in favour of gender quotas for executive leadership

In an historic vote, France’s National Assembly last week voted to require companies with more than 1000 people to introduce gender quotas on senior leadership and executive teams.

The mandate will see companies reach 30 per cent women as “senior managers and members of management bodies” by 2027, and 40 per cent by 2030. The bill also requires large and medium sized companies to publish annual data on gender gaps in their ranks.

Before it becomes law, the “Rixain-Castaner” bill needs to pass through the French senate before the end of President Emanuel Macron’s term. As well as addressing the gender gap in executive leadership, the bill also addresses other issues that affect women more broadly. This includes ensuring social payments land in women’s bank accounts (not their husbands), prioritising access to day care services for single parents, and a focus on supporting women entrepreneurs.

Elisabeth Moreno, France’s Minister for Gender Equality told Forbes that her dream is “parity everywhere”.

“It’s like the digital revolution, which has become totally transversal. From health care and cyber-security to economics and artificial intelligence, digital is everywhere,” she said. “The same is true for women. Otherwise, these systems remain biased and imbalanced.”

Before entering politics, Moreno spent three decades in the tech sector and has said that the introduction of quotas will help speed up the process of gender equality in the private sector.

“I’ve spent 30 years in the private sector. There are a lot of people who talk, talk, talk about more gender balance. But there is a lot more talk than there is action,” she said.

The “Rixain-Castaner” bill passed through the National Assembly ten years after France’s adoption of the Copé-Zimmermann law in 2011, which imposed a 40 percent minimum gender requirement for companies’ boards. This law has led to a marked increase in the number of women on boards. In 2019, 45 per cent of director seats at the country’s CAC40 Boards were filled by women, up from 10 per cent in 2009.

While this improvement has been seen on boards in France, the number of women in executive leadership has fallen well behind, with the new bill designed to help create a shift.

The summary of the bill states: “It is necessary to take a second step by actively promoting the presence of women in positions of responsibility.”

“The action on the glass ceiling makes it possible to intervene at all levels of the chain of responsibilities of the company by accelerating the careers of all women.”

The move from France follows legislation in Germany, passed in November 2020, that requires publicly-traded companies to have at least one woman in their executive leadership.

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