Women in France: Do they really have égalité?

In recognition of International Women's Day, we shine the spotlight on France and investigate the equality of the sexes when it comes to top jobs, salary gaps, and the genders of the country's politicians.

Women in France: Do they really have égalité?
France's government ministry is almost 50 percent female. Photo: AFP
Forbes published its annual billionaires list this week, in which 50 French people could boast a fortune that topped a billion US dollars.
While the top French spot went to a woman (L'Oreal's Liliane Bettencourt ranked tenth overall with an estimated wealth of $40.1 billion) she was one of only eight French women to make the cut compared to 42 Frenchmen. In other words, just 16 percent of France's billionaires are female. 
Government Ministers
There are 17 ministers in the French government, of whom eight are women. Let's not forget that there was an even 50/50 split until just a few days ago, when Minister for Higher Education and Research Geneviève Fiorasor stepped down due to poor health.
Meanwhile, there are 16 state ministers, seven of whom are women. 
While there has never been a female president of France, Anne Hidalgo became the first female mayor of Paris in 2014.
Édith Cresson was the only female prime minister of France, serving from 1995 to 1999, among 21 prime ministers since the fifth republic in 1959. 
National Assembly MPs
In 2012, there were 155 women elected among the 577 deputies of the 14th French National Assembly (which runs until 2017). That's just under 27 percent – a split that ranks France 34th in the world, nestled between Afghanistan and Tunisia. 
For comparison's sake, Andorra and Sweden lead the charge when it comes to women in national parliaments with 50 and 45 percent respectively. 
Salary gaps
France's Association for Executives' Employment (APEC) revealed this week that there's still a long way to go before gender equal salaries. 
In fact, when women have the exact same skill set as men they still earn 8.5 percent less than their male counterparts on average. 
Perhaps even more worryingly, the gap extends the older the French get. Sitting at just 5 percent for those under the age of thirty, the difference stretches to 12.5 percent for workers over the age of 50. 
Job specifically, the worst culprit for gender inequality is management, where women can expect 14 percent less money in their banks. The IT sector can lay claim to the lowest gap, with APEC reporting a difference of 5.5 percent between the sexes. 

Top Execs
When the Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI) held a summit in Paris last year, it was good news for gender equality. The organization ranked the world's 200 best companies in the world when it comes to gender parity on the board of directors, and found that seven of the top ten were from France. 
French newspaper Le Monde trumpeted that France was "the champion of women leaders", adding that the country had taken the crown from the US. The organization found that among the companies surveyed, 29.7 percent of the executive board members were women (compared to 22.5 percent in the US). The news is even better when considering that France's score was only 7.2 percent in 2004 – meaning a 22-percent leap in just a decade.
So why the big jump?
In 2011, France passed a law which sets strict quotas for gender balance in company boards. The law means that by the year 2017, France can expect 40 percent of boards to be made up of women. The law applies to companies listed on France's stock exchange or those with more than 500 employees.

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