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Empowering women in the economy to strengthen the economy itself

“Empowering women in the economy of a country is a means of both reducing intolerable discrimination and strengthening the economy itself,” said Brigitte Longuet, Honorary President of the French Federation of Women Administrators, addressing the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination as part of the preparation of a report by Elena Centemero (Italy, EPP/CD).

While in many European countries talk about parity has become a matter of course and is to be heard all the time in companies, politics and the media, “the fact that it is talked about does not mean that it is applied in practice,” she said. For example, the gender wage gap is between 20 and 25% in countries such as Belgium, Germany and France. In the latter, 30% of women work part-time as opposed to just 7% of men.

Bearing this in mind, how can discrimination within companies be reduced? Do we need to systematically bring in the “heavy artillery”, a set of laws laying down compulsory quotas and sanctions? Ms Longuet cited the ‘name and shame’ approach, i.e. giving negative publicity to offenders by making public the names of those companies failing to implement best practices.

Ms Longuet also made the point that legal incentives were paying off in France. “The renewal of political bodies in 2017 was a good example. There have never been so many female candidates for parliamentary office, as there are now tougher financial sanctions for political parties who fail to implement parity”.

At the same time, she added, companies can be much more efficient through gender diversity. “Capitalise on men’s competitive spirit which is heightened when women managers are around, make the most of the complementary input of women and men in teams to enhance their performance, use diversity to good advantage in order to increase the variety of leadership styles”.

“Parity in practice would bring real complementarity which would be a genuine asset for companies and, if rolled out on a broader scale, for the wider economy,” she concluded.