Open letter to the 41 leaders of large companies

Innovating for parity is possible. Without quotas.

Open letter to the 41 leaders of large companies who, on March 7, on the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, committed themselves to quantified objectives in terms of women’s access to responsibilities.

Dear Madam or Sir 

The objectives to which you committed in the article published on March 7, 2021 in the Journal Du Dimanche, are for you the “last stage of the rocket” aiming at reaching gender parity in your companies. In response, you have indicated that “innovation” and “openness” are necessary today. 

I would like to invite you to consider the following figure: in 2020, INSEE measured that mothers are 60% less likely to have access to the top 1% of jobs than fathers. Inequalities in access to the highest paid jobs are much greater between mothers and fathers than between women and men*.

What is an executive? It’s someone who has complete freedom to organize his or her work. In short, it is someone whose private life does not interfere with the company’s issues and whose high remuneration compensates for the priority given to work. Working hours of over 60 hours per week, often extending into the evenings at home, but also on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, are frequent and almost statutory characteristics.

With few exceptions, this professional availability has a strong impact on couples who wish to ensure a significant parental presence with their children. INSEE statistics show that when a father assumes the workload of an executive, there is often a mother who has little chance of exercising the same type of responsibility. The status of executive was historically conceived by men and for men: it reflects a bygone era, when fathers could rely on a wife dedicated to their professional success. 

There is a real challenge in reinventing the methods of exercising management functions at the highest level and thus responding to the massive wishes of the younger generation, which no longer conceives that, in a couple, the success of one is at the expense of the other. 

Too often, in your companies, career management systems think in terms of “men” or “women”, in other words “individuals”. At the highest levels of responsibility, these strategies come up against the wall of real life. By thinking more in terms of “couples”, you can open up a new frontier for innovation in terms of women’s access to the CODIR or COMEX.

By inviting to revisit the norms of remuneration and workload of executives so that they are not discriminating, by abolishing the very status of executive which frees from the legislation applicable to working time, by valuing a model of professional success which does not exclude the other spheres of life, you will build a model of economic and human sustainable performance, attractive for the new generations. 

You alone, as a company director, can drive the cultural, organizational and managerial challenge. This requires, in order to reach the objectives you have set, to voluntarily correct the perverse effects of the traditional “executive package”, which buys, for a non-standard salary, a non-standard availability.

It would be incoherent to want equal access to the highest levels of remuneration, without changing the current conditions for the exercise of power. Today, achieving equality in your company does not mean asking women to fit into yesterday’s model, but rethinking the model so that it adapts to them, thus becoming truly inclusive. 

Antoine de Gabrielli, Founder of Companieros, l’école du sens au travail, consulting and training organization on diversity, initiator of the Happy Men Share More program.

*INSEE Première n°1803 published on 18 June 2020

Find the JDD article (in French) “41 heads of large companies commit to parity, with quantified targets”.