Christel Heidemann was recently appointed President of Orange. Following the succession of Stephane Richard, she is only the second woman to currently lead a company in CAC 40, the main index of the Paris Stock Exchange. Orange has 140,000 employees worldwide – including 80,000 in France – and a turnover of 42 billion euros.
At the age of 47, Christel Heidemann will be joined by Catherine McGregor, General Manager of Engie… A third woman will join this highly closed club next July: Estelle Brachlianoff who will become the new General Manager of Veolia. None of them combine the functions of general manager and president.
Barely 14 women head SBF 120 companies
The fact remains that if we take the 120 largest publicly listed companies, at SBF 120 …. there are only 14 women leaders! Women often remain confined to the two or three roles.
However, France changed things thanks to a law passed 10 years ago, the Cobb Zimmermann Act. This provision mandates a 40% quota for women on the boards of directors and supervisors of large and medium-sized companies. A legislative restriction made it possible to increase the proportion of women from 13 to 46% within a decade. This is real progress. This text had the advantage of extremely masculine self-theft of these bodies.
But it is far from sufficient. Because women are still largely absent from executive boards (COMEX) but also from management committees (CODR). In other words, places of the most strategic decisions, where the power is concentrated but also the most profitable bets.
The few shepherds on these thresholds explain to you that trust is not earned.
New law to try to break the glass ceiling
Last December, parliamentarians passed a new law, known as the Rixain Act, – named after the Member of Parliament for Essonne behind the text – to boost the standing of women in companies with more than 1,000 employees – the most closed -. The latter should have at least 30% women on its boards of directors within 5 years, and up to 40% by 2030.
If the introduction of a quota system is up for debate, it remains a self-proven solution. Christine Lagarde, the patron of the European Central Bank, who was heard by the National Assembly in 2021 on the subject, emphasized, for example: “Without the quota system, it would be necessary to wait 140 years to reach parity.”
The Rijksen Act also mandates annual publication of differences in gender representation in positions of high responsibility. Effective March 1, 2023, any differences in representation will be announced on the website of the Ministry of Labor. This text will not only focus on leadership positions but on the entire chain and build a pool of talent.
Companies will have two years to comply with the law or face fines.
This Rixain Act also aims to help women gain better access to financial and banking independence, or to reduce pay inequality, by adding commitments to the Penicaud Occupational Equity Index.
The salary gaps are still very large
Despite the higher pass rate in tertiary education than boys, girls still earn lower salaries. According to Insi, female workers in the private sector earn on average 16.8% less than full-time men, about the same amount of work. For them, the gap increases with the number of children, while the presence of children does not affect the career of men. In fact, their professional progress often slows down, which has consequences for their retirement. The pension of women on average is 42% lower than that of men.
Despite these poor results, France is one of the countries where women are present in the economy … and where the feminization of the governing bodies is one of the most advanced, ahead of Germany and Italy. Nevertheless, our country will benefit from progress in this matter.
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