France adopted a law on 27 January 2011, with effect from 2014, compelling French companies whose shares are admitted to trading on a regulated market to aim for a balanced representation of men and women on boards.
To achieve a final goal of truly balanced representation, progressive steps have been set out by the law, as follows:
- for the first appointments after 1 January 2014, the proportion of boards' members of each sex cannot be lower than 20%;
- this goal will increase to 40% for the first appointments after 1 January 2017. As from this date, the law also provides for any boards with a maximum of eight members to limit the gap between the number of male board members and female board members to two.
These quotas will have to be respected and strictly implemented for future appointments. Indeed, in the event of failure to comply with these quotas, the law provides for a sanction that nullifies the appointments. It will however be specified that this does not result in the nullity of the deliberations in which the irregularly-appointed member took part. Those deliberations remain valid.
Furthermore, the law also provides a form of coercion since attendance fees for members of limited liability companies' boards may be suspended until the board's composition becomes valid.
It should also be noted that the President of the Board of Directors must, on an annual basis, report to the General Meeting of shareholders on the composition of the board and on the application of the principle of a balanced representation of men and women.
To complete this legislation a draft law is currently under discussion in Parliament, which could lead to an extension of these quotas to French companies not admitted on regulated markets. The companies affected by this future legislation are those with at least 250 employees and with a turnover greater than or equal to €50 million.
Under a March 2012 law, similar quotas were also introduced in public companies in order to achieve this goal of parity. According to this law's provisions, by 2018, the proportion of members of each sex, on Boards of Directors and Supervisory Boards of public institutions, must not be lower than 40%. If these quotas are violated, the infringing appointments will be liable to be nullified.