International Research and Practice
Edited by Susan Vinnicombe, Val Singh, Ronald J. Burke, Diana Bilimoria and Morten Huse
Chapter 4: Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: The French Perspective
Mairi Maclean and Charles Harvey INTRODUCTION The corporate power elite as presented by Wright Mills (1959) some ﬁfty years ago was drawn from a narrow pool of individuals sharing common experiences, career patterns, backgrounds and mindsets, tending to be male, white and ﬁfty-something (Zweigenhaft and Domhoﬀ, 1998). In contemporary France, the stereotype of the 50-year-old male executive continues to apply. This is in spite of increasingly strident calls for this imbalance to be rectiﬁed (Cadbury, 2002; Point and Singh, 2004; Zeïtoun, 2003), and the coming to prominence of several leading female role models – such as Anne Lauvergeon, ‘Atomic Anne’ as she is known, head of the French nuclear group, Areva, or indeed Ségolène Royal, candidate and runner-up in the 2007 French presidential elections. This chapter examines to what extent women have made inroads into the boardrooms of France, considering the most common routes to entry, the diﬃculties women may face in gaining entry and climbing the ladder, and whether any signs of change may be discerned. The chapter stems from a cross-nationally comparative research project, Business Elites and Corporate Governance in France and the UK (Maclean et al., 2006). The project covers the period 1998–2003, and consists of four related subprojects: a study of the institutional histories of the top 100 companies in 1998 in France and the UK respectively; a prosopographical study of the education, qualiﬁcations, careers, roles and responsibilities of 2272 directors of the top 100 French and UK companies (of...
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