PARIS – Nothing, it is said, succeeds like excess.
Unless you happen to be the mayor of Paris, whose winning drive to bring women to the higher levels of her city government was considered too successful.
After she managed to bring in 11 women to fill 16 top positions in the city – in keeping with the spirit of a 2012 law aimed at correcting gender inequality – she was fined nearly $ 110,000 last week for appointing too many women to senior management positions.
“Way too feminist,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said with more than a hint of sarcasm.
Technically, the law that fined the city required no more than 60 percent of any given sex to be appointed to senior civil servants positions in any given year. It was amended in 2019 so that no fines would be imposed if a disproportionate number of men or women were hired in any given year, provided the overall gender balance was respected.
But Ms. Hidalgo found herself in violation of the law for hiring the staff in 2018.
Not that she minded.
“Today I am going to rejoice that we have been fined,” Ms. Hidalgo said on Tuesday at a meeting of the Paris City Council. “With joy, shared with many others, I heard last week that the city of Paris had to pay a fine of 90,000 euros.”
Still, Ms Hidalgo said the “absurd” decision to impose a fine provided an opportunity to address systemic issues that persist across France, where the percentage of women in top positions in the public service was about 31 percent in 2018, according to official figures. Elected in 2014, Ms. Hidalgo is the first woman to lead the city’s government, and she has worked hard to address the long-standing imbalances in Parisians’ advocacy groups.
The ministry responsible for France’s civil service found that since its election, Paris has made great strides in correcting historic imbalances. Across the city government, women now hold 47 percent of senior management positions.
“Yes, we need to promote women with determination and vigor because the gap is still very wide all over France,” said Ms Hidalgo, 61, a socialist who was re-elected this year for a second term. “And so, yes, in order to promote and ever achieve gender equality, we need to accelerate and ensure that more women than men are employed.”
In her campaign for re-election this year, she spoke of turning Paris into a “feminist capital” that would expand services for women and girls, including education, health care and support for victims of domestic violence.
But Paris City Hall was recently shaken by the fallout from sexual abuse and allegations of sexual assault involving two of Ms. Hidalgo’s deputies. Yet the scandals put the mayor – who is regularly cited as a future presidential candidate – at the center of the debates about the future of French feminism.
Ms. Hidalgo personally pledged to hand over the fine, equivalent to nearly $ 110,000, to the head of the ministry that imposed the fine. The minister, Amélie de Montchalin, said on Tuesday that “the woman’s cause deserves better” and stressed that the provision leading to the fine had been changed in 2019.
“I want the fine paid by Paris for 2018 to fund concrete actions to promote female civil servants,” Ms de Montchalin wrote on Twitter while inviting Ms. Hidalgo to discuss the matter at her ministry.
President Emmanuel Macron said early in his tenure that women’s rights would be a top priority of his administration, but advocacy groups have often said the steps to address issues such as domestic violence were too timid.