French national study

Executive summary

Inequalities between women and men are deeply rooted in French society. As women gained access to rights later, their participation in economic decision-making also came later. Today, women tend to stay in higher education longer than men and come out of the educational system more qualified. However, there still remain structural inequalities that are compromising their progress and career.

The traditional split in household tasks, in particular, causes stops and starts in women’s careers, while maternity impacts female employment in multiple ways (change in contract to switch to part-time or terminate the work contract entirely). This gives rise to wage inequalities, as well as inequalities in representation in the economic decision-making process. In order to address these structural challenges, France’s successive governments have initiated not only gender equality mechanisms but also lasting structures. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights, assisted by the State Secretariat in charge of Women’s Rights are primarily in charge of proposing new equality mechanisms. The Parity Observatory, meanwhile, is in charge of measuring and developing indicators to capture the phenomenon. Where the law is concerned, gender equality was enshrined in the Constitution of the 5th Republic. A number of laws further assert gender equality in the workplace: the 1983 Roudy Act, supplemented by the 2001 Genisson Act, recognises equality in the workplace as an aim. The 2011 Copé Act was intended to facilitate better representation for women in economic decision-making, by allowing quotas to be instituted by large corporations. Gender equality is addressed at all levels of business activity. Another area in which gender equality is promoted is the social entrepreneurship sector. The latter is strongly supported by the State and is a truly important sector for male-female equality, in that one out of every seven women in France works in the social sector.

Further to the national study, FACE carried out interviews at both companies, one in the business economy and one in a social company. In both these sectors, the presence of women is balanced overall and one of the key characteristics of both companies is the large number of women in highresponsibility positions. In both companies, they accounted for two-thirds of the headcount. Despite parity in total numbers, women tend to hold administrative positions or resource functions, while men more frequently hold technical or logistic positions. As concerns training, assessment, remuneration and promotion, the processes are not common across the organisations and few HR issues are addressed from the perspective of gender equality. It appears, however, that it is often easy for women with children to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance. Some stereotypes linger on and emerged in the interviews. On the topic of gender equality, few differences in practise were noted between the panel’s companies. A social economy enterprise is not “automatically” more virtuous. However, the two structures did have different corporate cultures. The employees from the social economy company showed real commitment to take up the issue of male-female equality, and this in itself is a real instrument driver for action.