Is France becoming a role model for female political advancement?

“Never forget that it only takes a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question. These rights can never be taken for granted. You must remain vigilant throughout your life.” – Simone de Beauvoir, french writer

The EU’s Gender Equality Index ranks France in 4th place with 75.5 out of 100 points. The country’s score is 7.5 points higher than the European average. Since 2010, France’s score has increased by 8.0 points and its ranking improved by two places.

Even though the statistics seem to show France’s improvement when it comes to gender equality, there are still areas that seek additional work. The French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies noted that during the lockdown, there was a 36% increase in reports and regulations recorded by the national law enforcement related to domestic violence. According to the UN report from April 2020, the Covid-19 crisis is particularly impacting women, first and foremost through the increase in gender-based violence, with many women being constrained to stay at home with their abusers in countries experiencing lockdowns. Although the president Macron and the French government have made positive commitments to prioritize and fight gender-based violence, it is noticeable that there is a lot more work ahead and that necessary changes need to be made in order for women to feel safe at home.

When it comes to work-related inequality, the crisis only exacerbated an already fragile situation in France. Out of 5 million part-time jobs, 3.8 million are held by women. It is interesting to point out that out of France’s 40 largest companies, only one is led by a woman: Engie, whose CEO is Catherine MacGregor. Unequal distribution between the two genders in the labor market can create lasting effects on wage inequalities, such as the wage gap which is currently at 9% for the same position and equal skills.

World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2021 ranks France at number 16 in the world rankings.

France’s efforts to improve gender equality can be shown in the 3rd International Strategy for Gender Equality (2018-2022). It is a steering tool designed to coordinate France’s efforts to improve the situation of women around the world. The strategy is the international embodiment of the president’s commitment to make gender equality the great national cause during his term.

France’s road to having its first female president 

The French presidential election will be held in 2022. It creates a potential opportunity for France to get its first female president. Among the candidates for that position are several ladies: Marine le Pen (National rally) whose slogan is ‘keeping France for the French’, independent candidate Valérie Pécresse, who argues that it is the right time to have a female candidate and describes herself as ‘two-thirds Angela Merkel and one-third Margaret Thatcher’, and last but not least, socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo.

Anne Hidalgo, born in 1959, is currently serving as mayor of Paris. She holds a Master’s degree in Labor law from the Labor and Social Security Institute of Paris. Hidalgo initially served as First Deputy Mayor of Paris under Mayor Bertrand Delanoe (2001–2014), having held the title of Councilor of Paris since the 2001 municipal election. She became the first female mayor of Paris on April 5th 2014, and is currently serving her second term.

At the beginning of her first term, Hidalgo stated that housing is her number one priority. Under her mayorship, Paris has produced 7,000 social housing units a year, up from 5,000 a year under her predecessor. She aims for Paris to be 30% social housing by 2030.

Hidalgo’s 2020 campaign focused on turning Paris into a 15-minute city (Ville Du Quart D’Heure) which aims to make neighborhoods more self-sufficient within each arrondissement in Paris having its own grocery stores, parks, cafes, sports facilities, health centers, schools and offices accessible by way of a short walk or bike ride. Her agenda is focused on social inclusion, sustainable development, solidarity, citizen participation and innovation, essential topics in building the Paris of tomorrow.

Hidalgo is committed to making Paris greener, as she intends to remove over half of the parking spaces in Paris by the end of her four-year term in office (70,000 out of 140,000 total). Project “Paris Breathes”, includes banning all cars from certain areas of Paris on the first Sunday of the month, as well as making public transport and the city’s bicycle and electric vehicle schemes free for the day. In an interview given to Le Parisien in October 2020, Hidalgo announced: “We must forget about crossing Paris from east to west by car”.

Another green project she is going to implement is the renovation of Champs-Elysees with the intention of reducing spaces allocated to vehicles by half, turning roads into green and pedestrianized areas and planting tunnels of trees to improve the air quality of the city. She has also proposed a ban on diesel motors on the streets of Paris. 

Mayor Hidalgo will aim to revive the fortunes of the Socialists in April’s election with a campaign stressing environmental and social issues. It will be quite challenging for a local politician to lead her way to the national one and by doing so, becoming the first female president of France.

“She is seen as a Parisian politician, so a really local politician, which means that she really needs to put herself out there and to show that she can be a national politician. That’s one big challenge ahead of her, and another challenge really has to do with the lack of popularity of the French Socialist Party,” said Euronews journalist Héloïse Urvoy. (photo credit: Michel Euler/AP/picture alliance)