The Female Perspective


A few things happened during the past days that made me wanna change the subject I had initially envisioned and slightly adapt the format. I’m dropping some of the thinking processes here in a very disorganized way. 

It all started almost ten days ago, with an old friend, Marie Virginie Klein, announcing the publishing of her book —Women Leaders or «Femmes Dirigeantes» in French—. She draws the portrait of a dozen women, from all walks of life, who have managed to rise to the top, and, more importantly decrypts why they remain an exception. A few days before that, the American (legend!) poet Maya Angelou became the first black woman on a quarter of dollar—the first in a series of coins commemorating pioneering American women that began shipping this year, the U.S. Mint. My journey around necessary role models and representation echoed European Commission’s president, Ursula Von der Layen, calling to include more women on corporate boards. It accidentally jumped on a two-month-old New York Times article describing a research project on everyday sexism at work and how it impacts women. On Monday, around the same time, a Dutch female professional launched an initiative on Linkedin, “This week my name is Peter”, caught my eye. It aimed at drawing attention to the fact that in the Netherlands, there are more CEOs called Peter than CEOs who are women.

It did not stop there. As a technology enthusiast, I have, like everyone else, witnessed the wonderful moment French tech is living with this sort of «race for the next unicorn» taking place. Then five days ago, @LesEchos highlighted that of these 26 companies, only one, @Vestiaire Collective, was founded by a mixed group. One thing leads to the other—we all zap and jump laterally, are we not?— I checked some figures on how Covid has impacted women and ended my tour with Katharine K. Wilkinson’s interview by The New York Times about Climate Change inequality….I feel I could go on forever.

This week, I just wanted these few lines to be an uncomfortable reminder and provoke the conversation by gathering some facts highlighting the cultural meanings of female identity and gender with regard to current events. There is no new insight but the recognition that our systems are full of imbalances —due to gender, sexual orientation, race, or economic situation— with Covid and Climate Change acting as powerful multipliers of all the injustices and cracks.

So here is a humble call for an inclusive society that embraces diversity and equality. Empowering women is good for the world and is a good start to fixing the system. From Les Echos, to The New York Times and AOC, conversation increases in intensity to end with Pauline Grosjean’s critic of “Patriarch-Capitalism”. Hope you find it thought provoking.

—The Slow Rise of Women Leaders

Yes, “comex”, “codir” and boards of directors are becoming more female. However, the glass ceiling has not yet been shattered. The number of women in the CAC 40 is increasing from one to three CEOs, while the SBF 120 still has only 14 women CEOs, according to Ethics & Boards (compared to four-five years ago), and a woman founder heads less than 10% of French start-ups. To understand why the “one” numbers remain an exception, Marie-Virginie Klein has dedicated a book (*) to those “who have dared to occupy the place of leader”. The objective is to deconstruct the way society looks at women and how they look at themselves.

Anne Lauvergeon evokes “a Roman chariot race,” while Sibyle Veil emphasizes the incentive for women “to work more.” For her part, Kat Borlongan, current Chief Impact Officer of Contentsquare and director, until 2021, of the French Tech Mission, points out “the impostor syndrome” that led her to convince herself “that such a position belonged to an “enarque” in a dark blue suit.»

Suppose this feedback shows that there is no such thing as female leadership :

“I am rather reluctant to ‘gender’ management,” says Stéphane Pallez.

In that case, it nevertheless confirms that being a woman is never a non-issue in women leaders’ career and points to different ways of doing things between “female bosses” and “male bosses.” Recalling that motherhood and the reconciliation of high responsibilities with personal life remain thorny issues, the book lists the consequences of this “too complex reality,” according to the author.

—The Climate Crisis Is Worse for Women. Here’s Why.

Katharine K. Wilkinson, a co-editor of the climate anthology “All We Can Save,” argues that while climate change is a collective problem, its impacts will be disproportionate — skewed in its effects on the world’s most vulnerable populations, specifically women and girls. (Body)

“The climate crisis is not gender-equal or gender-neutral,” she said.

Men have a larger carbon footprint than women, by 16 percent, according to one study. And the top 1 percent of income earners globally, who are overwhelmingly male, are responsible for more carbon emissions than the bottom 50 percent of earners.

The author directly connects Climate Change to Patriarchy. Katherine Wilkinson asks the question, “why do we have such an abundance of greenhouse emissions, and why have they been so hard to rein in?” When we start to ask those questions, we find ourselves confronting a system that has been very focused on hierarchy, control, exploitation and, decision making that has primarily sat with a relatively narrow set of folks. And, indeed, women have not been at the table anywhere near equally in shaping the current status quo. The same is true for people of color. The same is true for Indigenous peoples.

In her book, the author describes the need for climate leadership that is more “characteristically feminine.” She evokes the example of Sherri Mitchell, an Indigenous attorney, activist, and author from the Penobscot Nation, who talks about the feminine as heart-centered wisdom and the masculine as action in the world.

“When we think about the things it’s going to take to address the climate crisis and build a genuinely life-giving future,” Ms. Wilkinson says, “it is going to take a fundamental reorientation to care. It’s going to take collaboration, connection, compassion, creativity, all of these things that fall within this realm of the feminine, regardless of gender identity.”

Katherine Wilkinson considers capitalism as fundamentally anti-climate. arguing that our belief in infinity at the core of this economic system opposes that we’re living on a finite planet.

“If you think that there is a way to solve for infinite growth on a finite planet, I would love to see that mapped out.”

— PatriarCapitalism: What Covid-19 does to Women’s Work

The COVID 19 recession is not a classic recession. For the first time, it is a recession that primarily affects women. Women were at the forefront of the sectors most affected by the pandemic and the lockdowns: the human service sectors, the restaurant and hotel industries, and the arts. It contrasts with the classic recessions of recent decades (and indeed all recessions since 1948) that affected traditionally male sectors, most notably manufacturing sectors exposed to competition from low-cost labor in developing countries.

The size of the shock is so unprecedented that labor economists now use the neologism “shecession.” 

Some figures: in the United States, the unemployment rate for women increased three times more than that of men in 2020. Domestic violence increased by 30% in France in the first week alone.

However stimulus packages and the resumption of growth is not equally benefitting women. For example, the “revolutionary” American rescue and recovery plan favors male industries —for every dollar spent on a female employee, 1.42 dollars is spent on a man. In France, the same story. Six billion dollars are allocated to health (which employs 70% of women), compared to 8.2 billion dollars to aeronautics (42% women), hydrogen, nuclear (about 20% women in the energy sector), and automobile (where women are less than 40%). 6.7 billion will go to “ecological renovation” (i.e., the building sector, where women represent 12% of the workforce).

Pauline Grosjean also invites reflection on what white women in Western, industrialized, and democratic countries will do with the progress they have enjoyed during the 20th century, although inequalities remain. She provokes asking whether we will use this progress to profit from racialized women workers in developing countries, justifying a patriarchalist ideology 2.0. She questions how women’s arrival on boards of directors under the effect of quotas benefits the company’s other employees. The author is pessimistic about the real impact, arguing that, from the top, the gap is too wide, the chair too comfortable. Since the evolution of gender inequalities is closely linked to the evolution of economic inequalities, the need to correct them becomes imperative.