French women in politics and women diplomats

Written by Valérie Luebken; Translation by H. Runte

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…

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

Valérie Luebken

French Consul General (Consule Générale) in Hamburg and former Head of Office (Cheffe de Cabinet) at the French Embassy in Berlin, political adviser in Tel-Aviv, Israel and New York, USA, and Senior Policy Officer at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium.

Je m’apelle Valérie Luebken.

Voici ce que je fais: Je suis diplomate de carrière, récemment nommée Consule générale de France à Hambourg et directrice de l’Institut français. J’ai occupé différents postes au cours de ma vie professionnelle, notamment celui de conseillère de presse à Los Angeles et à Washington, un poste de fonctionnaire détachée à la Commission européenne, et de cheffe de Cabinet à l’ambassade de France à Berlin.

Voici ce que je pourrais vous apprendre (quelque chose que vous ne pourriez pas apprendre d’un livre ou d’un manuel): La diplomatie est complexe et comporte de multiples facettes. Elle génère une série d’interactions qui ne sont parfois ni explicites ni intentionnelles. C’est là où interagissent des perceptions du monde radicalement différentes. La diplomatie s’exprime à tous les niveaux imaginables des relations politiques, culturelles, économiques et individuelles. Distillée dans sa forme la plus simple, la diplomatie, c’est aussi aller à la rencontre des autres, et profiter du contact ainsi créé et …parfois soigneusement préparé.

Voici ce que la culture signifie pour moi: Au cours de ma carrière, j’ai eu la chance d’être affectée aux États-Unis, au Moyen Orient et en Europe.
Être loin de la France m’a souvent amenée à réfléchir à ma culture et au pays que je représente. La France est difficile à résumer – de ses habitants à ses paysages ou sa gastronomie, en passant par ses lubies…Elégante et douce, elle peut être aussi intransigeante et incompréhensible. Parmi les nombreuses choses qui me rendent fière de ma culture figurent sans aucun doute les arts et notamment la littérature. Je suis une lectrice passionnée, et les livres ont toujours fait partie de mes longs voyages.

C’est ainsi que mon travail reflète ma culture: J’ai beaucoup de chance : tout ce que je fais professionnellement reflète ma culture ! En tant que Consule générale et directrice de l’Institut français de Hambourg, la culture et le gouvernement que je représente imprègnent tous les aspects de mes activités quotidiennes. Les contacts entre les peuples ainsi que les valeurs de liberté et d’égalité sont pour moi d’irremplaçables valeurs.

Voici mon utopie: Pourquoi ne pas s’autoriser à rêver à un monde où les femmes pourraient occuper toutes les positions qu’elles méritent amplement, malgré tous les obstacles qui existent toujours dans nos sociétés ?  Pourquoi ne pas rêver à un monde moins dominé par la concurrence et la violence et qui a de si néfastes conséquences sur notre planète ?

Réponses rapides

Mon genre de livre préféré: les romans

Mon livre préféré: Le Lion de Joseph Kessel

Mon endroit préféré pour lire: au lit

Où j’achète mes livres: dans les librairies inspirantes et sur les brocantes

Mon musée préféré: Le Petit Palais à Paris

Mes artistes préférés (peintre/sculpteur/performance): Karl-Schmidt Rottluff et Mark Rothko

Ma/mes source(s) préférée(s) d’actualité/d’information/de formation continue: Arte TV

Mon plat préféré à manger: les huîtres

Mon activité extérieure préférée: la plage (nager, marcher, lire)

Mon endroit préféré à Hambourg: les bords de l’Alster à la Rabenstrasse

English translation

My name is Valérie Luebken.

This is what I do: I am a career diplomat, just recently posted as the new Consul General of France in Hamburg and Director of the Institut Français. I have occupied a variety of positions throughout my professional life including press attaché in Los
Angeles and Washington D.C., a temporary position at the European Union in Brussels and Head of Cabinet at the Embassy in Berlin.

This is what I could teach you, that you cannot learn from a book: Diplomacy is multi-faceted and complex. It occurs in a series of interactions that sometimes are neither explicit nor intentional. It is the interaction of perceptions of the world and this occurs on all levels imaginable from the political, the cultural to one-on-one relationships. Distilled into its simplest form, diplomacy is the meeting of people and arises from the connection they create in a small (sometimes carefully crafted)

This is what culture means to me: Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to be posted across the United States and Europe. Being far from home has sometimes meant reflecting on my culture and the country that I represent. France is difficult to summarize – from its people to its landscapes, it can be described as elegant and soft but also harsh and in-your-face. France, like any country, comprises
a unique multitude of attributes. Some, like the quality of our food, are more appreciated than others. One of the many things that makes me proud of my culture is the richness of our literature and our art. As someone who is an avid reader, being away from home sometimes means delving into a French novel at the end of a long day. 

This is how my work reflects my culture/s: Everything I do professionally reflects my culture! As a diplomat, and now Consul, my culture and the government I represent is in every aspect of my day-to-day activities. I strive first and foremost to translate France’s values of cooperation, freedom and equality. I aim to bring a proactive and empathetic spirit to all of my professional endeavors.

This is my utopia: A utopia is hard to imagine in a field so fiercely ruled by the reality of our world. However, for me, an ideal scenario would be to see women empowered to occupy all the positions that they rightly deserve despite the hurdles
thrown their way by today’s societies. I wish for a world not so starkly ruled by competition and violence (in all its forms). Fundamentally, it is a broader sense of equality that I seek to see between individuals, groups and states.

Quick bits

My favorite book genre: novels 

My favorite book: Le Lion de Joseph Kessel

My favorite place to read: in bed

Where I buy my books:  in inspiring bookshops and on flea markets 

My favorite museum: Le Petit Palais in Paris

My favorite artist (painter/sculptor/performance): Karl-Schmidt Rottluff and Mark Rothko

My favorite source/s for news/information/further education: Arte TV

My favorite dish to eat: oysters

My favorite outside activity: beach (swimming, walking, reading)

My favorite place in Hamburg: the banks of the Alster near