Ten years of parity, and the work is not done

Will the 10 years of the Copé-Zimmermann law, which imposed the feminization of boards of directors, be an opportunity to go further in parity at the head of companies? “Now, we must be able to move up a gear and therefore to enter into a more ambitious logic which involves quotas”, declared Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, on January 18 during a hearing in the National Assembly. “This anniversary must be the moment when we look at what are the shortcomings of the device,” recalls Marie-Jo Zimmermann, former member of the Moselle at the origin of the text voted on January 20, 2011, who is participating these days in several events, at the Medef, the Senate and the National Assembly, where the anniversary of the promulgation of the law will be celebrated on January 27.

This text, which has been emulated in Europe and even in California, has proven to be formidably effective. “The thresholds have been reached and companies have submitted to the law, except foreign companies which have not respected it”, summarizes Floriane de Saint Pierre, president of Ethics & Boards. According to this firm specializing in sustainable governance, the 40% obligation was even largely exceeded, with a rate of feminization of boards of 46% in January 2021 for the CAC 40, and 45.8% for SBF companies. 120, the index which brings together the 120 largest companies listed on the Paris market.

“The effect was striking,” underlines Hervé Borensztejn, partner in the Paris office of Heidrick & Struggle, where he directs activities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Without the law, which imposed a quota of 40% of women on the boards of directors or supervisory boards of listed companies, to be reached in seven years, “it would have taken 150 years to get to where we are now”, explains this expert in high-end recruitment, for whom “the reluctance that has arisen has been undeceived”.

Logically, the past ten years, by feminizing the boards, have led women to chair some of them, such as those of Legrand (with Angela Garcia Poveda, appointed in July 2020), Sodexo (Sophie Bellon), Vallourec (Vivienne Cox), or Michelin, which has just appointed Barbara Dalibard at the head of its board. A choice all the more symbolic in that this position, the general manager of Sita, passed through Orange and the SNCF, is both the first woman and the first person not to come from the family. Its last representative, Michel Rollier, will pass the torch to him at the next general assembly, on May 21.

Read alsoBruno Le Maire: Quotas to favor women in large companies

An effective, but incomplete law

The picture, however, is far from idyllic. Beyond the large listed companies, present in the CAC 40 and SBF 120, “we have no legibility on the figures”, recalls Marie-Jo Zimmermann. It considers necessary the creation of “a real dashboard and real control” for all the companies affected by its law, namely those of more than 250 people with at least 50 million euros of turnover. ‘business.

In addition, recalls the former member, “the law of 2011 was not limited to quotas in the councils, it provided in its article 8 that the policy of equality between women and men be treated at least once a year by the board of directors on the basis of the comparative situation report. ” For her, the feminization of boards was not a goal in itself, but a way to advance gender equality at all levels of the company. This is not the case today, deplores Agnès Pannier-Runacher, very committed to issues of equality and parity. “This feminization from the top does not solve the problems of precariousness of women’s work or that of staggered hours and it does not make it possible to promote jobs in which women are very represented”, analyzes the Minister responsible for Industry .

Another limitation of the Copé-Zimmermann law: the feminization of the councils should favor the appointment of women in the governing bodies. And this was indeed the case, explains Floriane de Saint Pierre: “Within the SBF 120, companies headed by women show almost perfect parity, and those with female chairmen have an executive committee that is 34% female on average. ” Overall, however, the CAC 40 and the SBF 120 only display 22% of women in their executive committees (comex) or management committees (codir), the CEOs remaining mainly men.

A “guys club” according to Elisabeth Moreno

“I’m going to be cash, warns Elisabeth Moreno: I regret that the CAC 40 is still today a” guys club “. If I had been told thirty years ago, when I started my professional career , that in 2021 a single woman, in this case Catherine MacGregor at Engie, would be at the head of one of the forty largest French companies, I would not have believed it “. In the SBF120, only a dozen have taken operational orders, including only three CEOs: Christel Bories (Eramet), Stéphane Pallez (FDJ) and Marie Cheval (Carmila, the land company of the Carrefour group)

However, should quotas be imposed on executive bodies, as Germany has just done? “Legislating on the comex is possible, otherwise it will take 80 to 100 years to achieve parity,” said Hervé Borensztejn. But opinions are divided. If the Medef is rather reluctant, Philippe Darmayan, the president of the UIMM, co-signed in March 2020 in the JDD, a forum “for quotas in the management committees”.

Controversial, the idea gained ground. “Today, with Bruno Le Maire and Elisabeth Borne, we want to amplify this feminization movement by going down one floor so that the management bodies are more equal,” says Elisabeth Moreno. The project under study, which has not yet been decided at Matignon and at the Elysée, still contains uncertainties. It should focus on “parity among senior executives”, indicates Agnès Pannier Runacher, with a first objective which could be set at 30% by 2025, 2027 or 2030. First on the podium for the feminization of advice, the France would thus continue to advance on the path to parity. While leaving the prerogative of daring to Germany.

Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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