Sunday, October 25, 2009

Equality in the board room: Copé's a dipshit

Marc explains the news from France

The story HERE.

Jean-François Copé, near the top of anybody's list of the politician they would like to slap, has just proposed a bill to ensure that at least 40% of a public company's board members be female. He cites Norway as a model. That's probably a very good model, but he neglects to note that Norway also has a very good record for equality in politics, which is not the case in France.

Copé is the head of the majority in the French National Assembly. His party, the UMP, and its predecessor the RPR, were dragged kicking and screaming to gender parity in politics when such laws were enacted under Socialist governments.

These laws have been somewhat effective. They apply to all elections which take place by list of candidates. In such elections, male and female candidates must alternate. Men tend to be at the top of each list, giving them a slight advantage. Incentives to gender parity also apply to legislative elections, by means of financial penalties for parties that do not present 50% of each sex nationally. Here, women tend to be assigned to seats that the party knows it cannot win, decreasing the presence of women in the National Assembly. Some parties (including Copé's UMP) simply prefer to pay a fine -- or rather, receive fewer taxpayer subsidies (yes, parties are subsidized by taxpayers in France... it's supposed to decrease corruption: HAH!).

In bodies elected by list, women represent:
48% of members of regional councils
44% of Members of the European Parliament
47% of members of city councils (cities of more than 3500 inhabitants).

In bodies not elected by list, women represent:
10% of members of departmental councils (conseils généraux)
12% of Members of the National Assembly
17% of Senators.

A recent reform of the Senate electoral law will result in a significant drop in women Senators.
As stated above, parties prefer to take a hit on their subsidies than guarantee the presence of female candidates for the National Assembly.
And just a few days ago, Copé's boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed a reform of the regional and departmental councils that would combine the roles of regional and departmental councillor into a single elected official, elected under the rules of the departmental council (single-member constituencies) rather than the regional council (regional party list).

So, for the sake of Monsieur le Député Jean-François Copé, I will translate a famous English saying: "les gens qui habitent des maisons de verre ne devraient pas commencer à lancer des pierres".