In 2011, when the “Copé-Zimmermann” law was voted in France, nobody thought that it would be possible to achieve a breakthrough in gender equality: at least 40% of men and women on the boards of directors of listed companies and companies with more than 500 employees and € 50 M in revenue. In 2013, the boards of directors of the top 120 French publicly traded companies included 26% women; less than ten years later, in September 2021, women represented 46% of the board members.

Without the “Copé-Zimmermann” law, what was the predictable future for the composition of these companies’ boards of directors? A slight incremental increase in the number of women year after year, or even a decrease in women’s representation, as nobody would have looked at the figures and acted. What this law did to the French corporate world is create the possibility of gender equality on the boards of directors of the largest companies in the country. The conditions to achieve the target were not there, but after the law was published, companies had to look for pathways to meet the requirements, and programs were developed to support women in becoming board members.

Is it perfect? No. Many smaller companies have not progressed in gender equality in their governing bodies. Also, this law has not had the expected impact on driving gender equality at the top management level and in executive committees. However, this law created the possibility for conversations and actions that were not possible before, and for a future that was not predictable. Based on the results produced by the “Copé-Zimmermann” law, a new law was voted in 2021 to improve women’s participation in executive committees.

Take A Stand And Keep Re-Creating It

If you are committed to a breakthrough in gender equality at work and want to achieve it in your organization, start by declaring it. By creating the possibility of gender equality, you will see things new and take actions that were not possible before. You will also inspire other people in your organization to act differently. When the possibility disappears in the face of other daily business imperatives and challenging circumstances, keep re-creating it for yourself with the support of the people who share the same stand.

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