In short

Legislators have spared no effort in recent years to encourage economic and social actors to reduce gender inequalities. The Roudy Act (1983) and the Génisson Act (2001) respectively encourage the "the negotiation of equality plans" and the “implementation of remedial measures to correct inequalities" for example. But these laws modestly encourage or incite, when there is a constitutional principle safeguarding equal access to professional and social responsibilities - recalled Marie-Hélène Bensadoun, one of our partners specializing in labor and employment law, during her speech at the Cité de la réussite in June 2022.

So, in 2011 (Copé-Zimmermann law), in 2018 (law on professional futures) and in 2021 (Rixain law), legislators went beyond benevolent exhortations to set quantified objectives, as well as sanctions, notably monetary. Quotas and ratings are since imposed on companies as vectors of equality and gender diversity, if not yet of real parity.

Let us then look at the figures and explore the trends ahead: a shift to self-regulation or the continuation of our efforts under good constraint?

Equal access to responsibilities: "a mixed record”

The quotas introduced require listed and unlisted companies with at least 250 employees, and a turnover or balance sheet total of at least 50 million euros, to achieve 40% parity on their boards of directors and supervisory boards.

In 2021, the results are spectacular, at least in CAC 40 companies, since the proportion of women on their boards of directors rose to 46% (compared to 10% in 2009). Such results have made the High Council for Equality between Women and Men state "when there are quotas and monitoring, the law is a success.”

However, other results are less pleasing: if the feminization of the Boards of Directors and Boards of Trustees has increased from 26.1% in 2013 to 45.6% in 2020 in SBF 120 companies, it only reaches 34% in listed companies below the SBF 120, and 24% in unlisted companies concerned in 2018. Finally, it falls to less than 20% for Eurogrowth companies. "When there are no quotas, there are no results," the HCE also notes. Moreover, the trickle-down effect that was expected from governance bodies to management bodies has not really occurred.


Though the road to parity may seem long and slow, the quotas introduced by the Copé-Zimmermann law have certainly initiated change. They have made the invisibility of women and their skills tangible, through figures. They have also contributed to the upskilling of board members. To ensure parity reaches management levels, the Rixain law implicitly extended the principle of quotas to Executive and Management Committees in December 2021: 30% of women by 2026 and then 40% by 2029 (but only for companies with over 1000 employees).

Equal pay: towards more transparency?

In 2019, the full-time equivalent pay gap between women and men reached 16.1%.

In order to fight against this inequality, companies with more than 50 employees are required by law to calculate and publish their Gender Equality Index (overall score out of 100), every year on March 1, to measure the pay gap and highlight areas for improvement where unjustified disparities exist.

In 2022, 61% of companies published their Index: 92% have a score above 75, with the average score at 86 (or 89 for companies with more than 1000 employees). However, only 2% of the companies obtained a score of 100, 156 companies have not reached 75 for 3 or 4 years, and 39% of the companies failed to comply with the obligation altogether.

Getting companies to measure different indicators aims make at making them more aware of the inequalities they may harbor. Then, by making the data public, it can be compared with the other companies concerned. This information is also accessible to job applicants, who, as we know, are increasingly sensitive to social issues and the reputation of the companies they target. 

It is no surprise, then, that we are moving towards greater employee transparency through increased employer obligations. A directive targeting companies with more than 50 employees is currently being drafted. The principle of certification (accessible to the public) implemented by Iceland since 2017 is notably being looked at by parliamentarians. It provides that all companies with over 25 employees must provide evidence of equal pay for women and men, be renewed every three years to avoid daily fines. It should be remembered that Iceland was ranked first out of 153 countries for the 12th time in terms of equal pay for similar work and overall gender equality by the World Economic Forum.

[1] Cité de la réussite, 25 et 26 juin 2022, Le plafond de verre dans tous ses éclats,
[2] Pour reprendre les termes du Haut Conseil à l’Égalité entre les femmes et les hommes (HCE) dans son livret « De la parité à l’égalité professionnelle », publié le 26 janvier 2021
[3] Commission des Affaires Sociales, Rapport sur la proposition de loi visant à accélérer l’égalité économique et professionnelle, 5 mai 2021

[6] Les quotas visent les cadres dirigeants et les « organes chargés d’assister la direction générale dans l’exercice de ses missions ».

[7] Insee Références, Femmes et Hommes : une lente décrue des inégalités, Éditions 2022,
[1] Ministère du travail, du plein emploi et de l’insertion, résultats de l’Index de l’égalité professionnelle 2022, 07 mars 2022,
[1] Parlement Européen, Écart de rémunération hommes-femmes : pour des mesures contraignantes en matière de transparence salariale, 17 mars 2022,