Paris is being fined for breaking France’s gender rules – by employing too many women

The Paris city council has been fined an unlikely penalty of 90,000 euros, equivalent to $ 110,000, for appointing too many women to higher positions and violating French gender equality rules.

The crime dates back to 2018, when Mayor Anne Hidalgo appointed eleven women and five men to her senior team at a time when governments around the world were trying to increase women’s representation in governments. But with 69% of the positions towards women and 31% towards men, Paris has broken national government rules to promote equality, which require at least 40% of new positions to be assigned to each gender.

In 2019, an exemption was introduced if the new recruitments did not lead to wider gender inequality. That seems to be the case in Paris, where women make up just under half of the senior officials at City Hall. But the first round of appointments pre-dated the waiver, meaning the Parisian government was still on the hook.

Ms. Hidalgo told a city council meeting on Tuesday that the appointments have led to women having a louder voice in the government in France and, with a tongue on her cheek, said she was pleased to pay the fine.

“In Paris, we are doing everything we can to make it a success, and I am very proud of a large team of women and men fighting this fight for equality together,” said Ms Hidalgo.

Many countries have tried in recent years to encourage greater political participation of women. Some researchers suggest there have been helpful benefits, with female leaders outperforming their male counterparts in some cases during the Covid-19 pandemic, at least in the early stages.

Economists Uma Kambhampati of Reading University in England and Supriya Garikipati of the University of Liverpool surveyed 194 countries and found that women leaders were more likely to close their economies in mid-May and their countries suffered on average half as many Covid-19-related deaths as those led by men . However, this may be in part because women tend to lead left-wing governments willing to take more bold government action to slow the spread of the virus.

Ms. Hidalgo, re-elected to her second term as mayor earlier this year, is one of the more prominent members of the Socialist Party after it suffered a string of defeats in recent national elections. But she too has struggled politically with the pandemic to spread across Europe, although Paris sometimes had tighter restrictions than other parts of the country.

The fine was thus a rare opportunity to build on a successful policy. Ms. Hidalgo says she now plans to hand over a check for the fine herself to the Department of Public Service, along with senior executives in the city government.

“There will be so many,” she said.

Amélie de Montchalin, the French public service minister, in turn described the fine as absurd on Twitter. “I want the fine that Paris will pay for 2018 to fund concrete actions to promote women in public service,” she said. “I invite you to the ministry to raise them!”

Write to James Hookway at [email protected]

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