Gender Imbalance at Top French Companies: 9 of France’s Top 10 Have No Women on their Executive Committees

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The Executive Committees of 9 out of France’s top 10 companies remain entirely male dominated and do not include a single woman. These are: AXA, Total, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, GDF Suez, Credit Agricole, Electricité de France, BPCE, PSA Peugeot-Citroën. The only company with women on its Executive Committee is Société Générale, with 3 women out of a total of 17 (18%).

French companies, despite a strong female management pipeline, seem to be keeping senior levels off limits to women, says Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first

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20-First’s annual WOMENOMICS 101 Survey: Focus on France reveals that among the 102 executives comprising the Executive Committee level of France's top 10 companies, only 3 individuals (or 3%) are women, and all are in support functions, none in line or operational roles. This compares to the American average of 15% of executives at this level and the European average of 7%. France is today on a par with Asia, where the average is also 3%.

“A surprising result since 60% of university graduates are women,” points out Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, the world’s leading gender balance consultancy and author of the study. “The quota law being voted in France has increased the representation of women on Corporate Boards from 12% last year to 16% this year, but the Executive Committee remains a more accurate reflection of a company’s actual gender balance. And French companies, despite a strong female management pipeline, seem to be keeping senior levels off limits to women.”

The Executive Committees of 9 out of France’s top 10 companies remain entirely male dominated, and do not include a single woman. These are: AXA, Total, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, GDF Suez, Credit Agricole, Electricité de France, BPCE, PSA Peugeot-Citroën. The only company with women on its Executive Committee is Société Générale, with 3 women out of a total of 14 (21%). “I believe gender diversity helps drive performance throughout the company and brings balance to the teams which benefits the overall functioning of the firm,” says Frédéric Oudéa, Chairman and CEO of Société Générale. “I think it is vital to put in place voluntary programs in industry to promote professional equality and women’s access to senior management positions. As soon as I became CEO, I rapidly named two additional women to the Executive Committee.”

Gender balance on leadership teams has been shown in numerous studies to correlate to better corporate performance, better return on investment, greater innovation and more stock price resilience during crises. A 2009 GEF/IPSOS survey reveals that 86% of French managers consider gender balance a strategic issue.

20-first, a Paris-based international gender consultancy that works with progressive companies interested in optimizing both halves of the market and talent pool, releases the WOMENOMICS 101 SURVEY – FOCUS ON FRANCE annually, focusing on a single measure of progress: the gender balance on the Executive Committee of the top 10 French companies of the Global Fortune 500 (by sales revenue). The data is based on the information provided on the corporate websites of the companies concerned. For a complete view of the survey: http://www.20-first.com/1420-0-focus-on-france-2010-womenomics-101-released.html

About 20-first
20-first is one of the world’s leading gender consultancies. 20-first works with progressive companies interested in balancing their leadership teams and optimising both halves of the talent pool and both halves of the market – the female and male halves. The firm’s renowned Building Gender Balanced Businesses programmes and suite of online tools help companies harness the talent and market opportunities of the 21st century. More at http://www.20-first.com

About AVIVAH WITTENBERG-COX
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of 20-first, author of the newly released HOW Women Mean Business, A Step by Step Guide to Profiting from Gender Balanced Business (Wiley, April 2010), and co-author of the best-selling, WHY Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution (Wiley 2008).

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Jacqueline Lapasin
20-first
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