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'Bosses' boss' likens sexism to racism

Matthew Warren · 28 Jun 2011, 07:04

Published: 28 Jun 2011 08:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Jun 2011 07:04 GMT+02:00

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The leader of France's main employers' organisation, Laurence Parisot, has launched an attack on the enduring sexism in French society in the wake of the scandal involving IMF head Dominique Strauss Kahn.

In an outspoken interview with Le Parisien, Parisot has revealed her own personal struggles with sexism as well as spelling out how she thinks France should deal with the issue. 

The bosses' boss, as she is known in France, believes that the affair involving the former IMF boss and a hotel maid is a critical turning point for France. She hopes the issue "will help free speech. The French may be clear on human rights, but they have neglected the issue of equality between the sexes."

In the interview, in which she denounces the behaviour of male politicians, businessmen and even sexist advertising campaigns, she claims "it's vital that we denounce sexism. It's a kind of racism, just like there is against blacks, jews and muslims."

51-year old Parisot has been head of the main employers' organisation in France since 2005. She recently won a second term after being uncontested in the election and winning 94 percent of the vote.

She told the newspaper that "after the Dominique Strauss Kahn affair, the small group of women who work at Medef got together and talked about our own experiences, both personal and professional. We'd never spoken about these issues before." 

She even recounted how her very first job interview turned out to be a dinner invitation and that the dinner was "difficult to deal with but I managed to put up a good defence".

Parisot rejects the claims of some in France that Americans are too puritanical. "Relations between the sexes are clear in the US, but still very blurred here". 

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She said she hopes the subject will become a key issue in next year's presidential election. While she doesn't think it should be the only criteria, she thinks a female President would be a good thing. 

Her proposals to fight sexism include a powerful ministry of women and longer paternity leave.

Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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