Journée mondial

For more equality in the company, let’s change our conception of power

Delphine Remy-Boutang regrets the glaring gender gap in France when it comes to the place of women in managerial bodies.

Delphine Remy-Boutang

In this forum, Delphine Remy-Boutang, CEO of the Bureau and Digital Women’s Day regrets the glaring gender gap in France when it comes to the place of women in managerial bodies and the world of entrepreneurship.

It has been 40 years since the concept of a glass ceiling was first used this year. Four decades during which, while great progress has been made, the place of women in the spheres of power has been made, the results are still insufficient for the time being.

In politics, the number of women elected is still in the minority. In the world of culture, the works of female artists are under-represented in the official selections of professional events. Finally, from an economic point of view, France still had only 17% women in the Codir and Comex of its large companies last year. And since 2008, startups founded by women have raised only 2% of the funds available!

A gender gap that is essentially economic and professional

Power is acquired or exercised through various facets and universes. It can be political, economic, societal, cultural, professional. It is on some of these criteria that the World Economic Forum used to measure gender equality in its latest Global Gender Gap Report: education, health, financial situation and politics. While the first two areas are making significant progress globally, women’s place in politics and their financial situation remain sources of gross inequality.

France, ranked 15th, lost 3 places this year and is only 65th in terms of economic opportunities! At the global and local levels, women’s low participation in the labour force and stagnant wages remain the black spot for equality. What’s the problem? Cultural habits, always, but also their under-representation in future activities such as cloud computing, engineering, data or artificial intelligence.

Quotas to accelerate equality

If we look at what we more commonly call « power » in the professional world, we see again in France a clear gender gap when it comes to the place of women in managerial bodies and the world of entrepreneurship.

The figures that show their presence in decision-making positions remain, in fact, largely insufficient. In 2007, before the Copé-Zimmermann act, women held only 8.5% of the seats of directors of the SBF 120, 38% in 2016 and finally reached the quota of 40% (43.6%), 8 years after the adoption of the law.

On the other hand, women are still not invited to the tables of executive committees or executive committees, functions not subject to legal constraints, since they occupy only 17.9% of these positions in the SBF 120. Thus, there is only one CEO at the CAC 40, Isabelle Kocher at Engie, and only one at SBF 120, Christel Bories at Eramet.

Among SMEs, the share of women on boards remains well below the threshold set with only 28% of women on business boards in 2017. Finally, undertaking when you are a woman is also more difficult when you consider that since 2008 startups founded by entrepreneurs have raised only 2% of the funds available… A striking figure, which is illustrated on a daily basis by the lack of visibility of women entrepreneurs in France. As a reminder, in August 2017, Digital Women’s Day had to react to the total absence of women among the panel of « promising start-ups » selected by Capital magazine.

Digital Women’s Day members in response to the absence of women in Capital’s « promising start-up » panel © JFD Connect

The glass elevator

Why such disparities when women are just as highly educated as men? If the roots of this evil are multiple, culture is the main one. The exercise of power is historically a matter of men, because it presupposes so-called « male » values, because it is a matter of networking and co-optation, because it cultivates the self. To break this vicious cycle, we have several options. The first of these is legal coercion. As we have seen above, the Copé-Zimmerman Act has acted as an accelerator in less than 10 years.

On 17 December, the High Council for Equality (HCE) presented the government with the report « Women’s Access to Responsibilities and The Leverage of Public Funding » report to study the extension of the law to other bodies such as the Codir and Comex, as well as the conditioning of public aid to meet women’s quotas. Beyond the « fear of the gendarme », these initiatives have the advantage of encouraging current male decision-makers to open their networks to new talents, and the authorities to renew themselves, to transform themselves.

At the same time, we must all continue our self-regulation efforts by transposing this desire to end boy’s clubs in other economic spheres… starting with traditional early-stage financing players, for example. They represent only 30% of employees in digital, and generally hold support positions while men occupy more operational and decision-making positions.

Four out of ten IT jobs were held by women in the 1960s and 1970s

Yet the 20th century had a number of digital pioneers. Valérie Schafer, a historian of computer science and telecommunications, recalls that four out of ten it jobs were held by women in the 1960s and 1970s, including figures such as Stephanie Shirley, Katherine Johnson and Margaret Hamilton. Today, the place of women in IT has been halved.

Thus, training in the digital trades and the promotion of emerging trades are two other avenues to be explored. Among high school students, students and even dropouts and people in vocational retraining. This cannot be done without fieldwork, by looking for the models of success in the feminine, highlighting them and sharing their experience.

Giving the keys to the power to undertake and succeed

To break the glass ceiling, there is no obligation to endorse the stereotypical straitjacket of the man of influence with a cold, hyper-rational, intransigent and even violent temperament. For more equality of opportunity in the corporate world, changing our conception of power would probably have more impact. No longer think of it as a subordination — having « power over » something or someone – but as the power to do something, a possibility and a right. This is how digital technology can be a factor of female empowerment: it allows us to innovate, to create, to be heard.

The ambition of Digital Women’s Day is to help the women and men who ask us by giving them methods, by making them know the tools that exist to project themselves into the future and finally come out of the shadows. As Michelle Obama said in 2014, « No country can prosper if it suppresses the potential of women and deprives itself of the contribution of half of its citizens. » For our countries to prosper, let us all have the same opportunities to shine and do business.

Women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs from Europe and Africa, committed to a better world through digital technology, #lesMargaret of the JFD:

Une réflexion sur “For more equality in the company, let’s change our conception of power

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