The state of gender equality in France
As public streets turn into open air dance halls at the beloved Fête de la Musique this weekend, our eye is fixed on France. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron declared gender equality to be “la grande cause nationale,” the cornerstone of his 5-year presidential term. While economic inequality persists, France has followed in Iceland’s footsteps of radical transparency.
From de Beauvoir to Schiappa
The bad news: France currently has an unadjusted average gender pay gap of 15%, which can climb as high as 25%, depending on the sector. And the good news? The country that gave us both The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen and The Second Sex is now joining the ranks of Iceland and Sweden in legislated commitment to pay transparency and to closing the gender pay gap.
Indeed, President Emmanuel Macron has earned applause for championing gender equality as his cause célèbre, as well as for the fact that half of the ministers in his regime are women. Indeed, the Macron government appears to be tackling the issue of wage inequity head on. In 2017, the French labor minister Muriel Pénicaud vowed to completely eradicate wage inequity by 2022. Meanwhile, Marlène Schiappa, the gender equality minister, “named and shamed” at least two employers who failed to implement gender parity. In short, the issue of wage inequity is finally getting the political attention it deserves.
France had codified gender equality long before Macron’s presidency. Equality between men and women was first recognized in the preamble to the 1946 French Constitution, and its general national employment legislation includes a provision implementing the principle of equal pay for women and men. Furthermore, employers were already legally mandated to put a plan in place to narrow their respective gaps, and, starting in 2013, they faced penalties if they failed to do so.
Finally, though, in March 2018, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe grabbed the bull by the horns, giving French companies three years to close their gender pay gaps completely.
The law on “implementing the provisions aimed at eliminating the pay gap between women and men in the workplace and relating to the fight against sexual violence and gender-based conduct at work” demands nothing less than radical transparency from all companies with 50 or more staff: firms will be required to install software that interfaces directly with their payroll systems to monitor unjustified pay gaps.
Companies of this size or bigger are also obliged to publish annual indicators that correlate to gender pay gaps. These indicators fall into five criteria: remuneration gaps, salary increases, opportunities for promotions, return from maternity leave, and presence of women in the 10 highest paid positions. Each criteria has been assigned a point value totaling 100. If a company’s performance falls below 75 points, fines of up to 1% of the total payroll may be sanctioned.
The first rounds of stocktaking are staggered as follows: companies with over 1,000 employees had to publish by 1 March 2019, companies numbering at 250 staff by 1 September 2019, and 50 employees or over by 1 March 2020.
Precisely 831 firms published their gender equality index this past March, with 713 above the minimum of 75 points. Three of them had nearly perfect scores at 99 points: the catering giant Sodexo, and two insurance companies, namely, MAIF and CNP Assurances. And the 118 who are on “red alert”? They are now tasked with coming up with a plan to rectify the systemic issues that perpetuate gender inequality, to go into effect immediately.
By the end of April, 80% of the 1300 affected firms published their indices. The rest will be facing the first sanctions to be issued on an annual basis until they comply, and 1% of a company’s annual payroll is nothing to sneeze at. The bottom line? Transparency is worth it!
FPI - What we do
Why does the gender pay gap prove so intractable? What is standing in the way of fair pay for all? What do companies need to do in order to put sustainable pay strategies into practice?
Knowing about the pay gap and being willing to rid the world of the unjust state of affairs are evidently not enough to actually ensure fair pay. It is right here ...