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French companies scramble to get women onto their boards

March 22, 2016
Diversity & Inclusion

French companies are up against a deadline: They have until 2017 to meet new quotas for female representation on their boards.

Cue the mad scramble.

According to The Financial Times, women make up 28 of the 44 board appointments that members of France’s CAC 40 index have submitted for approval at their general meetings this year, according to Proxinvest, a proxy adviser.

A law passed in 2011 dictates that 40% of board members of CAC 40 companies must be women by next year (the currently prevailing level is 35%). Companies that don’t meet the target won’t be allowed to make any board-level changes that don’t contribute to fulfilling the quota.

Competition for women candidates is becoming fierce as corporations try to close that gap. The scarcity of qualified women is forcing companies to look abroad—more than half of this year’s female board appointees are foreign. It’s also prompting them to go after the same candidates. Clara Gaymard, the former head of General Electric in France, has been appointed to three new boards this year and she already sits on another. That’s not exactly the picture of diversity.

Despite companies’ dash to meet next year’s target, women’s representation on corporate boards in France is already leaps and bounds ahead of other countries. In the United States, which has no quotas, women held about 19% of the board seats of S&P 500 companies as of early last year. In Germany, women hold about 22% of supervisory board seats at Germany’s top companies, even after a law mandated that they make up 30% of seats by January 1.

By Claire Zillma

Source: Fortune

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