What men can do for professional equality

According to INSEE, the average wage income of women working in the private sector in France in 2023 will still be 24% lower than that of men. Thus, despite the multiplication of binding public policies since the 1983 Roudy law on professional equality, the Observatoire des Inégalités (OI) points out that, at the rate of recent years, it will take more than thirty years to eliminate this gap. While the intervention of the legislator seems necessary to achieve equal pay, and ultimately economic and professional equality, the latter cannot be achieved without the help of men. But how?

Firstly, as a colleague, manager or boss, by refusing to accept pay disparities for identical skills and working hours.

Several studies[1] show that women are less daring in asking for pay rises, and on average make less ambitious requests for increases, than their male peers. Others point out that women are paid less because their professional activity is still too often perceived as a complementary source of income for the household, rather than a primary one. In all cases, therefore, it is important to support - or, where possible, implement - pay transparency policies, in order to detect and rectify unjustified differences in remuneration between men and women in the same position with equal skills and experience.

Secondly, by making the world of work more welcoming to women

First and foremost, this means proactively taking part in the fight against sexist and sexual violence in the workplace. One third [2] of women, for example, have been victims of sexual harassment at least once in their career. The consequences are penalizing in terms of physical and mental health, as well as in economic terms: many women's careers have been hampered by the loss of confidence that this type of situation can generate, or even, in the worst cases, directly shattered by the perpetrator of the harassment. So when you witness or become aware of this type of situation, you need to take action to put an end to it, whatever your role within the company.

What to do? Talk about it with human resources staff or your company's sexual harassment referent (whose presence has been mandatory since January 1, 2019 in all companies with more than 250 employees and salaried workers) or your Works Council when there is one. Secondly, by adopting inclusive behaviors. This means, for example, genuinely giving every participant in a meeting the opportunity to express his or her views, and not cutting them off [3]. It also means proscribing sexist humor [4] with the same rigor with which we proscribe racist humor, and avoiding the use of exclusionary language, such as "the guys".

We also look at the impact of our unconscious biases on the way we gauge a colleague's performance.

Do we do this in a way that ensures she is evaluated using a method that is free of gender stereotypes? Do we have strictly the same professional expectations and requirements of her as we do of our male colleagues? When it comes to parenthood, this is rarely the case. American academic Victoria Budson [5] points out that companies often have divergent attitudes towards men and women having their first child: a man is thought to be more involved in his work because "he's becoming a father, he'll now be looking for money and stability for his home", while a woman will be less so because "she'll have to look after her baby". Two weights, two measures, faced with the same event, which has an impact on professional equality.

Finally, for those who are concerned, by taking action within the couple or the home

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the unequal distribution of unpaid care activities within households, mainly performed by women, is directly linked to wage inequalities. The same organization points out that in France, only 40% of salaried men take part in unpaid care activities, such as childcare, on a daily basis, compared with 80% of women. What's more, the IO reported in 2016 that only 36% of men devoted an hour each day to cooking and household chores, compared with 80% of women. As the work[6] of researcher Haude Rivoal shows, the world of work seems to operate on the principle that women will continue to look after children. We need to move away from this way of thinking and organizing.

By adopting these behaviors, everyone can play a direct and concrete role in favor of professional equality and make the world of work more welcoming, responsible and serene, with spin-offs in terms of economic performance and well-being.

Opinion column published by Courrier Cadres,

and written by

Marc Normand

Consultant for EQUILIBRES


[1] Tobi Thomas, “Women who ask for pay rise less successful than men, UK poll reveals”, The Guardian, le 3 avril 2022, URL : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/03/women-who-ask-for-pay-rise-less-successful-than-men-uk-poll-reveals

[2] « Harcèlement sexuel au travail : 1/3 des femmes victimes », Le Figaro, le 28 février 2018, URL : https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/2018/02/28/97002-20180228FILWWW00025-pres-d-1-femme-sur-3-victime-de-harcelement-sexuel-au-travail.php

[3] Jacobi & Schweers, “Justice, Interrupted: The Effect of Gender, Ideology and Seniority at Supreme Court Oral Arguments”, Virginia Law Review 1379, 2017, URL : https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2933016

[4] Emilie Fréchet, « L’humour en entreprise, ne peut-on vraiment plus rien dire ? », Human & Work - les podcasts,  le 15 mai 2023, URL : https://open.spotify.com/episode/3VH0acrLH2yDxa1dj1ivHS?si=1fKHpy6sTNWFJYv0Ghu8dQ&nd=1

[5] Victoria Budson, “Gender, Equity & Prosperity”,  2017, URL : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRqEGoqxk4A

[6] Haude Rivoal et Victoire Tuaillon, « L’entreprise, ce monde d’hommes », Les Couilles sur La Table, URL : https://www.binge.audio/podcast/les-couilles-sur-la-table/lentreprise-ce-monde-dhommes