The Guardian reports that France’s center-right party, that of President Nicolas Sarkozy, has proposed legislation that sets benchmarks for businesses to bring women into the boardroom:
In a bill submitted to the French parliament this week, all companies listed on the Paris stock exchange would have to ensure female employees made up 50% of their board members by 2015. If passed, a gradual implementation of the law would see businesses obliged to have women in 20% of board seats within 18 months, and 40% within four years.
As of June 2008, women only comprised 9.7% of the top 300 European company boardrooms. Norway’s female representation in boardrooms grew from 22% in 2004 to 44.2% after quota legislation in 2008. The bill, to be debated in January, follows a 2000 effort to advocate for the same equality within the French government. And still:
France’s failure to impose parity on its politicians, despite a constitution change in 2000 which had the aim of giving women a larger presence in the French parliament, is one of the reasons many people remain sceptical about this week’s proposals. At the last election, only 18% of MPs in the lower house were women.
Françoise de Panafieu, one of those MPs, hit out today at her own party for setting out quotas for the business world when it had failed to put its own house in order. “I prefer people setting an example to those giving lessons,” she told L’Express magazine, claiming that Sarkozy’s party had had to pay €5m (£4.5m) in fines after the 2007 elections for failing to impose parity.
How telling, that Panafieu must hold her party accountable for the promise. The quotas appear to be limited only by enforcement–which will likely come from businesswomen themselves. One question raised by another French businesswoman in the debate has been largely ignored: are quotas humiliating when they provide upward mobility and access for hundreds?