PARIS – Nothing, it has been said, succeeds like excess.
Unless you are the mayor of Paris, whose winning campaign to bring women to the upper echelons of her municipality was deemed too successful.
After successfully recruiting 11 women to fill 16 of the city’s top jobs – in line with the spirit of a 2012 law to correct gender imbalances – she was fined nearly 110,000 dollars last week for appointing too many women to leadership positions.
“Far too feminist,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor, with more than a hint of sarcasm.
Technically, the law under which the city was fined required that no more than 60 percent of one gender be appointed to the highest positions in the civil service in any given year. It was amended in 2019 so that there would be no fine if a disproportionate number of men or women were hired in a given year, provided that the general gender balance was respected .
But Ms Hidalgo found herself in breach of the law because she had hired in 2018.
Not that she cared.
“Today, I will be happy that we were fined,” Hidalgo said Tuesday at a meeting of the Paris City Council. “It is with joy, shared with many others, that I learned last week that the city of Paris had to pay a fine of 90,000 euros.”
Still, Ms Hidalgo said the ‘absurd’ decision to issue a fine offered a chance to address systemic problems that persist across France, where the percentage of women in key civil service positions was around 31. % in 2018, according to official figures. Ms Hidalgo, who was elected in 2014, is the first woman to lead the city’s government and she has worked hard to address long-standing imbalances over who represents the interests of Parisians.
The ministry in charge of the French civil service noted that since its election, Paris made great progress in the correction of the historical imbalances. Across the city government, women now hold 47% of leadership positions.
“Yes, we must promote women with determination and vigor because the gap, everywhere in France, is still very large,” said Ms. Hidalgo, 61, a socialist who was re-elected this year for a second term. “And so, yes, in order to ever promote and achieve gender equality, we have to step up the pace and ensure that more women are appointed than men.”
In her re-election campaign this year, she spoke of making Paris a “feminist capital” that would expand services to women and girls, including education, health and support for victims of domestic violence.
But Paris city hall was recently shaken by the fallout from allegations of sexual abuse and assaults involving two of Ms Hidalgo’s deputies. However, the scandals place the mayor – regularly cited as a future presidential candidate – at the center of debates on the future of French feminism.
Ms. Hidalgo pledged to personally hand over the fine, equivalent to nearly $ 110,000, to the head of the ministry who levied it. Minister Amélie de Montchalin said on Tuesday that “the cause of women deserves better” and stressed that the provision leading to the fine had been amended in 2019.
“I want the fine paid by Paris for 2018 to finance concrete actions to promote women civil servants”, Ms. de Montchalin written on twitter as she invited Ms. Hidalgo to discuss the matter at her ministry.
President Emmanuel Macron said at the start of his term that women’s rights would be a top priority for his government, but advocacy groups have often said measures to address issues such as domestic violence were too timid.