Paris Is Fined for Breaking France’s Gender Rules—by Hiring Too Many Women

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Paris Is Fined for Breaking France’s Gender Rules—by Hiring Too Many Women

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she plans to present a check for the fine to the Ministry of Public Service herself.

Photo: Vincent Isore/Zuma Press

The city government of Paris has been dealt an unlikely punishment: a fine of 90,000 euros, equivalent to $110,000, for appointing too many women to senior positions and breaking France’s gender-equality rules.

The offense dates back to 2018, when Mayor Anne Hidalgo appointed 11 women and five men to her senior team at a time when administrations around the world were trying to increase female representation in governments. But with 69% of the positions going to women and 31% to men, Paris broke national government rules to promote equality, which require that at least 40% of new positions should be allocated to each gender.

A waiver was introduced in 2019 if the new hires didn’t lead to a broader gender imbalance. That would seem to be the case for Paris, where women account for just under a half of senior officials in city hall. But the initial round of appointments predated the waiver, meaning the Paris government was still on the hook.

Ms. Hidalgo told a meeting of the city council on Tuesday that the appointments helped give women a louder voice in government in France and, with tongue in cheek, said she was delighted to pay the fine.

“In Paris, we are doing everything to make it a success, and I am very proud of a large team of women and men who together carry this fight for equality,” Ms. Hidalgo said.

Many countries have tried to encourage greater political participation for women in recent years. Some researchers suggest there have been useful benefits, with female leaders in some cases faring better than their male counterparts during the Covid-19 pandemic, at least in its early stages.

Economists Uma Kambhampati at Reading University in England and Supriya Garikipati at the University of Liverpool surveyed 194 countries and found that by mid-May, women leaders locked down their economies sooner and their countries suffered half as many Covid-19-related deaths on average as those led by men. However, this might in part be because women tend to lead left-leaning administrations that have been prepared to take more decisive state action to slow the spread of the virus.

Ms. Hidalgo, who was re-elected to her second term as mayor earlier this year, is one of the more prominent members of the Socialist Party after it suffered a string of defeats in recent national elections. But she, too, has struggled politically with the pandemic’s spread across Europe, although Paris has at times had tighter restrictions than other parts of the country.

The fine, then, was a rare opportunity to build on a policy success. Ms. Hidalgo says she now plans to present a check for the fine to the Ministry of Public Service herself, along with senior executives in the city government.

“There will be so many of us,” she said.

Amélie de Montchalin, France’s minister of public service, in turn described the fine as absurd on Twitter. “I want the fine paid by Paris for 2018 to finance concrete actions to promote women in the public service,” she said. “I invite you to the ministry to raise them!”

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

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