Written by Valérie Luebken; Translation by H. Runte
Dear readers, I am slowly getting used to my new role as French Consul General to Northern Germany and am delighted to have started discovering the cultural richness and diversity of the magnificent city of Hamburg. This being my first article for the 4Corners blog, I would like to tell you a little about French women in politics and women diplomats.
When asked to speak about France, one of the topics I like to discuss concerns the representation and the career paths of women, because a lot of progress is being made in this area!
Please judge for yourself:
At the national level and according to figures from July 2022, there are for example:
- 35% women in the Senate
- 37% in the National Assembly
- 20% in town halls, 45% in municipal councils
- 20% as county heads, 51% in the county council
We can therefore see that the higher you go in the hierarchy of power, the less women are represented. An example: only 20% of mayors and less than a third of regional leaders are women. In the National Assembly, only 37.3% of women are represented, i.e. 215 out of a total of 577 deputies. We are still far from having achieved perfect equality, even if, for the first time in the history of France, a woman has been elected president of the National Assembly, Ms. Yael Braun Pivet.
In the Senate, the proportion of women is increasing, but this trend is slow and parity will theoretically only be achieved in 2026. Women now occupy 35.1% of seats compared to 25% in 2014, partly due to a commitment to parity, which requires candidate nominations from both sexes.
A brief reminder of the laws that have facilitated these changes Laws for parity in politics:
- In 1999, a constitutional reform that sets quotas for women was adopted: parties that do not include at least 50% of candidates from both sexes have to pay a fine. Two laws in 2000 and 2007 support this regulation.
- The law for effective equality between women and men
- The introduction of paternity leave (in 2021) is also part of recent reforms, thus furthering greater equality between men and women
- The French experience therefore shows that real equality between women and men can only be the result of a collective political will – not a happy coincidence of history. France sees quotas as a useful tool to achieve gender equality.
Equality laws have helped improve the position of women in politics, but women still remain largely excluded from leadership positions.
This takes place in a worrying international context.
Women and girls are the first to be affected by poverty, conflicts (the example of the Ukraine) and climate change. Their place in society confronts them with difficulties and discrimination everywhere and in all areas, a reality exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and its consequences.
In some countries, sexual violence is also used as a weapon of war to terrorize the population.
Finally, the consequences of the pandemic are particularly serious with regard to the decline in economic activity and the loss of jobs for women. The sectors most affected by the crisis are tourism, gastronomy, and service providers.
This is why our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has placed equality at the center of France’s external policies and actions.
Since 2016, France’s policy has been based on a strategic document entitled „France’s strategy for external actions for the benefit of the population that improve citizens’ rights and sexual and reproductive health for the period of 2021-2024.“
For us diplomats, this strategy includes:
- a) A vade-mecum on equality between women and men – The practical implementation of parity at headquarters and in messages;
- b) The appointment of correspondents for gender equality in each department of the ministry, permanent representation or embassy;
- c) The promotion of equality between women and men in the framework of bilateral dialogues and international negotiations;
Things are changing, very positively, but of course, a lot remains to be done! The pay gap between men and women, for example, remains very high in France: in 2020, women received an hourly wage 15.8% lower than that of men.
And this is what I wanted to share with you today. Sincerely, Valerie Luebken