French women aren’t waiting around for men to step aside and put more women on corporate boards. According to Bloomberg Business Week last month a group of women disguised with fake beards stormed the podium of Veolia Environnement – a water utility during a shareholders meeting. The women tauted the utility for only having 1 woman on a 17 member board.
The article goes on to note that these tactics are actually having an impact.
That kind of stunt is becoming common during this season of French annual meetings. The activists, who decline to reveal their identities for fear of retribution, are demanding that companies, including Veolia and insurer Axa (AXAHY), deal with the “boy’s club” reputation of their corporate suites. Today, management has to take such pranks seriously. French lawmakers are considering legislation that would require at least 40 percent of companies’ boards to be made up of women within six years or risk not being able to add new male directors.
Legislation has already passed France’s lower House of Parliament in January, 2010. It is now before the Senate. French corporations are already responding by adding more women to their Boards. According to Governance Metrics International – a corporate research group in New York City, Women make up only 9.5% of 103 French corporate Boards.
Norway in 1992 actually passed legislation mandating quotas for women on corporate boards. Women then only comprised 6.8% of 23 corporate boards. Now the figure is 34%.
Governance Metrics International noted that women comprised only 8.5% of 405 corporate boards in Britain and 12.2% of the boards of 1,754 US corporations.
The other side of the coin of course is that women are also severely under represented in legislative government. Figures from a wikipedia article on women in government point this out very clearly. “16% of all parliament members in the world are female. In 1995, the United Nations set a goal of 30%”
The same wikipedia article notes that “The United Kingdom and United States are roughly in line with the world average. The House of Lords has 139 women (19.7%), while there are 125 women (19.4%) in the British House of Commons. In the U.S., 17 of the 100 United States Senators are women, while 77 Representatives are women (17.9%).”
An article posted on the Brooking Institute website notes that “Women have long been underrepresented in French politics. French women have only been able to vote and eligible to serve in office since 1944, significantly later than in countries such as the United States (1920) …. The number of French women in office remained low for 50 years. In 1945, women represented 5% of National Assembly députés. In 1996, they still made up only 6% of députés, although they constituted 53% of the electorate. Following the 1997 legislative elections, women now make up close to 11% of députés, but still only 5.9% of senators.”
It seems to me that more women need to run for office as a form of storming the male dominated political power structure in France and America and most other countries in the world.. At least women in France are challenging the corporate world. While equality for women in governance and corporate power is an important progressive goal, obviously gender alone will not bring about necessary changes for a more just society. One need only witness right wing fanatics like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman who get a lot of attention but are not supportive of progressive legislation that makes a better world for both men and women.