Two things stood out from my recent video interview* with Laurence Parisot, head of Medef, the French employers’ federation: one frivolous, one deadly serious. The first was that Parisot said that, aged nine, she had hoped to be “number one” in water-skiing (and, less surprisingly, in business or politics). The second was her equation of misogyny with racism.
Parisot told me:
Misogyny is… just like racism and sometimes this is very difficult to realise… and to accept that this has this level of importance.
This belief underpins her support for the French mandatory quota system on boards, which marks her out from other heads of employers’ federations, such as the CBI in the UK, which prefer voluntary targets.
She has drawn this parallel before – most recently in France on International Women’s Day in March. But still it is a stark judgment – if only because public figures rarely, if ever, make the direct link – that should stir up debate about the causes of, and solutions to, the gender imbalance in business.
(*Recorded May 10, 2011)