Bearded women challenge French ‘boys club’ boards in Paris

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A group of women wearing fake beards stormed the podium at Veolia Environnement SA’s shareholders’ meeting in Paris last month, challenging Chairman Henri Proglio over the gender makeup of his overwhelmingly masculine board.

The stunt is becoming a common sight during the current season of French annual general meetings as companies from Veolia to insurer Axa SA are forced to address the “boys club” reputation of their corporate suites. French lawmakers are considering legislation that would require at least 40 percent of companies’ boards to be made up of women within six years or risk not being able to add any new male director.

The law, adopted in January by the lower house of parliament, is being considered by the Senate. If it’s voted in, France would join Norway to put in place legally binding quotas to boost the number of female corporate directors. In Spain, a 2007 law recommended that companies fill 40 percent of their board seats with women by 2015.

“The quota thing is fine,” French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said in an interview. “I used to be against quotas; you stand on your own merits and you should be recognized as such. But things are moving too slowly. There will be a lot expected of women simply because there will be resentment on the part of those who will have to make space.”

Full story: Bearded Women Challenge French ‘Boys Club’ Boards in Paris –