±JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
±Compare Expat Providers
±Expat Focus Partners
±Latest Financial Articles
· 10 Things To Think About Before You Move Abroad In Your Middle Age
· Expat Focus Financial Update August 2017
· What Could Higher Interest Rates Mean For Your Overseas Property Purchase?
· Expat Focus Financial Update July 2017
· The Lifestyles And Cultures Of Great Expat Locations
· Understanding Exchange Rates for Your Overseas Property Purchase
· Interview With Duncan Khoury, Head of Marketing, World First Australia
· Expat Focus Financial Update June 2017
· Relocation Destinations For The Politically Minded And Socially Progressive Expat
Fact or fiction?Back to top Back to main Skip to menu
Sharon Revol: Gender equality in France - Fact or fiction?
About the Author
Sharon Revol has been living in France for the last 14 years and is married to a Frenchman. Her daily experiences of life in France can be read at pigletinfrance.wordpress.com
I first realized how sexist France was when I was living back in England for a few years, aged 22. I was dealing with French businesses on a daily basis and as a joint partner in the company I worked for; I was entitled to make a certain number of decisions or to sign contracts without consulting my business partner. Yet, the French companies would never accept my word or signature until they had confirmation from my partner. It was like being considered a child or as being incompetent, they were always checking that what I said was true, thus undermining any responsibility I had.
Frustrating as this was, alarm bells should really have started ringing very loudly during one of my first French business meetings which I had set up and prepared. I was supposed to lead the meeting but I quickly realized that there was little point… The men from the other company were openly staring at my chest area whilst ignoring anything I had to say. Their questions and answers were addressed to my business partner and despite my efforts to regain control of the meeting and my partner’s constant deflection of all their questions back to me, nothing changed. Needless to say polo necks quickly became a staple part of my working wardrobe.
Thankfully, I am not a feminist although I am a strongly independent female willing to constantly battle for my rights. I will stand up and be heard and will stand firm if people do not wish to deal with me because of my lack of testosterone. France is definitely not a country for the faint hearted feminist that is for sure!
So it was not surprising when the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index was recently published to see that France ranks 46th out of 134 countries, lagging behind most other European countries, the United States, Jamaica and quite a few Latin American countries to boot.
So whilst the women of France appear to have it all, gender equality is one thing they certainly don’t have! Women are poorly represented in government, rarely obtain board level management positions within large companies and earn 26% less than their male colleagues in the work place.
It’s as if women are to be seen and not heard whilst they carry out their role of raising the perfect family and providing top notch, simply delicious meals for their spouses. After all, this is a country where tax returns are completed jointly in Mr’s name, so how can women expect to be equal?
Discussing the report with friends and family, I was told a story of how one lady was not even able to tell the milkman how many bottles of milk she wanted delivered. The milkman would only deal with her husband and if he wasn’t available he had to write a note. Now, if that was me I would have promptly cancelled my milk delivery and arranged to pick it up myself! This was going back 30 years ago and is not something you would still consider rife in this day and age but unfortunately I had my own experience last week.
We had arranged for our home to be put on the market and were seeking an estate agent to market the property for us. Despite joint ownership, the estate agents only wanted to deal with my husband despite him telling them he was busy and that I was looking after it. I’m sure one of the agents never expected to get the sack from a female though!
The agent in question had come round to see us for the paperwork to be signed and my husband was busy on a call. The estate agent and I just sat there waiting and after an indeterminable silence, I asked the agent if there was anything that we could be getting on with whilst we waited for my husband to return. He dismissively told me that he had some questions so I said he could go ahead and ask them thus saving time, only to be told that he would rather not as he didn’t think I would be able to answer them and they would be better answered by the man of the household. Dumbfounded by his outright sexist approach to business, my bottom jaw hit the table leaving me speechless for a while. Thankfully I managed to find my voice just as my husband reentered the room and told the agent to leave as we wouldn’t be doing business with him after all. Thankfully estate agents are two a penny in the city and my other half believes strongly in gender equality; he couldn’t believe what the agent had said and gave him a piece of his mind to boot!
So, with its old fashioned ways France certainly isn’t a country for women expecting gender equality, but I wonder, is this truly something that is widespread in France or are the French just more openly discriminatory?
World Economic Forum: Full Report http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2010.pdf
France report: http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap2010/France.pdf
Sharon Revol has been living in France for the last 14 years, is married to a Frenchman and has written business columns in the UK as well as articles about French life for various publications. Her daily experiences of life in France can be read at pigletinfrance.wordpress.com
Read more about this country
Expat Health Insurance Partners
Our award-winning expatriate business provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. In addition, we have helped develop world-class health systems for governments, corporations and providers around the world. We want to be the global leader in delivering world-class health solutions, making quality health care more accessible and empowering people to live healthier lives.
At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.
Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.