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Gender quotas for big firms planned

A leading government MP is championing a law to force leading firms to have at least 40% female board members

THE biggest French companies could be obliged to have at least 40% of female board members, if a proposed law goes through.

The leader of the ruling UMP Party group in the National Assembly, Jean-François Copé, wants more women at the helm of big business. He has said that a law, supported by a number of MPs, will be put forward to ensure this in the next few days. It will concern the Cac40 firms – the top 40 on the French stock exchange.

He told Le Journal du Dimanche that he felt “indignant that we are stagnating in this struggle” for equality between men and women. He wants a 40% law first, with a view to upping it to 50% eventually.

According to Mr Copé, “salaries, career paths and possibilities for combining family and work life are all progressing too slowly in French companies. We have to accelerate and act.” Having more women on boards would mean the right example would be set at the top, he said.

At present there are only four women among the leaders of the Cac40 firms and a government report showed that only 8% of those in key positions in the biggest 500 firms are female.

The law could be voted on in the first half of next year. Mr Copé said France should set an example and be a leader in the matter, along with Norway which has a similar law.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel said such an idea would need in-depth debate and it was a “very complex” area.

“A quota is not necessarily the best solution, but at the same time you can see that if you don’t pass laws it’s difficult to get results in this area,” he said.

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