Despite a low-key start to the campaign to elect councils for France's départements or counties later this month, new rules for these elections do herald genuine changes in French local politics. For the first time there will be strict male-female parity among those elected, the new councillors will be noticeably younger and the age-old tradition of combining both a local and a parliamentary post is starting to fade. But as Mathieu Magnaudeix reports, this welcome progress risks being largely undermined by the fact that the départements themselves, which date from the time of the French Revolution, are increasingly being marginalised by the ascendancy of regions and metropolitan areas. Indeed, voters will go to the polls not even knowing what powers the councillors they elect will have in the future.
Paris is about to have its first woman mayor in the city's long history. But the certainty that either socialist Anne Hidalgo or right-wing candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet will take the reins of the French capital after the two rounds of local elections that start this Sunday masks the fact that most French towns and cities will be run by a man whichever of the main parties wins the local vote. An examination of the mayoral election candidates by Mediapart has revealed that the great majority are male, white – and not very young. Lénaïg Bredoux and Ellen Salvi report on the slow progress made by the country's two major mainstream parties in making their politicians more representative of the populace.
France's women’s rights minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem this week revealed that some 500 companies were recently ordered to introduce gender parity at the workplace or pay hefty fines until they do. For despite legal requirements for firms to provide what the minister called ‘professional equality’ between male and female employees, women in France on average earn markedly less than men and are significantly less present in managerial posts. Dan Israel presents some of the stark facts of an outrageous discrimination, and hears from outspoken feminist and businesswoman Mercedes Erra why she believes change can only come about by imposing quotas.
A consensus is building in France that the next to be buried in the Pantheon should be from that half of the population almost totally overlooked.
While French politics continues to be a man's world, the pressure mounts on presidential candidates to take a clear initiative to introduce parity.