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SKEMA Observatory of the Feminisation of Companies: new study

Published on 26 March 2019

A new study published this year by the SKEMA Observatory of the Feminisation of Companies provides a closer look at the progress made regarding gender equality in major companies. The study is led by Professor Michel Ferrary, affiliated researcher at SKEMA Business School and professor of management at the University of Geneva.

​The study’s findings reveal that 15% of the major groups quoted on the CAC 40 prefer to leave the country to avoid the quotas for women on boards of directors.

The study highlights the positive impact of the French Copé-Zimmermann Law on increasing the number of women on the boards of directors. By 1 January 2018, virtually all CAC 40 companies based in France had attained a 40% quota of women on their boards of directors.

15% of the groups are “social exiles”, in that they have re-localised outside France to avoid the 40% quota of women on their boards of directors imposed by the Copé-Zimmermann Law. The six companies the furthest from the 40% are all legally based in foreign countries where quotas are less strict or do not apply at all.

The intractable glass ceiling blocking the path to executive committees remains: women represent only 13.69% of executive committee members although they represent 32.33% of executives, the traditional pool from which directors are recruited. The fact that this poor level of representation has remained stable over the years argues in favour of imposing quotas on executive committees, opines Prof. Ferrary.

An inequality index shows which companies discriminate the most against women in terms of promotion to senior positions and illustrates the glass ceiling that separates the pool of executives (the pool from which directors are drawn) and the percentage of women on executive committees. With three women on an executive committee of seven, and 49% of its executive employees being women, Danone won the orange prize for career promotion. At the other end of the scale, with only one woman out of ten members in its board of directors, despite the fact that 65% of its executives are female, LMVH won the wooden spoon for the thickest glass ceiling.

There is an increasingly pronounced gap between companies with high gender equality (a high percentage of women in the staff and in supervisory roles) and companies with low gender equality (a low percentage of women in the staff and in supervisory roles). The more ‘male-centred’ companies include Pernod-Ricard, Airbus, Thales, Faurecia, Bouygues and Eiffage, and the ‘female-centred’ ones include Edenred, Accor, Sanofi, Vivendi and Carrefour.

Finally, the study emphasised that the Femina Index outperformed the CAC 40. A portfolio of shares from companies whose management comprises over 40% women outperformed the CAC 40 in the medium term (2013-2019) and the long term (2009-2019).

Since 2007 and at the initiative of its founder, Professor Michel Ferrary, the observatory has analysed trends in the percentage of women on boards of directors and executive committees, in supervisory roles and on the payroll in general for 60 of the largest private French companies (CAC 40 + CAC Next 20). It also analyses the link between increasing the percentage of women at different levels of hierarchy (boards of directors, executive boards, supervisory roles and general staff) and economic and financial performance (growth, profitability, stock price, etc.

The SKEMA Observatory’s work on feminisation in companies has been covered by numerous academic publications and presentations at scientific conferences.

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