Saturday, May 21

Elisabeth Moreno: “Fighting sexism is a cultural challenge and a civilization issue”

Insidious, sexism creeps into our relationships and degrades them, especially at work. Whether it is expressed through words, gestures or attitudes, it has the effect of inferiorizing women, whose careers are thus hampered. This Tuesday, January 25, national day to fight against this phenomenon, Elisabeth Moreno, Minister in charge of Equality between women and men, denounces an “entire society […] sick of sexism.

The annual ceremony of the #StOpE initiative (Stop ordinary sexism in business), organized today under his high patronage, is precisely intended to involve companies in the fight against this discrimination. Since the creation of this program in 2018, more than 140 organizations have joined, committing to implement at least one action per year to fight against sexism in the workplace.

Why is it important for you to support an initiative like #StOpE?

As the President of the Republic stated in November 2017, “our whole society is sick with sexism”. And in the country of equality, it is unbearable that women – who represent half of humanity – are still so often victims of discrimination, violence and prejudice that prevent them from fulfilling their full potential.

As Minister in charge of Equality between Women and Men and as a former businesswoman, I am delighted that professional organizations are getting involved in this fight against violence against women.

Because this fight, yesterday buried under collective indifference and today at the heart of the news, requires the mobilization of our entire society. And we are all concerned. I therefore welcome the fact that more than 140 professional organizations are now signatories to the “Stop ordinary sexism in the workplace” charter.

Is the world of work particularly conducive to the development of sexism?

The world of work is made up of human organizations, so companies are not immune to this scourge. They are not immune to ambiguous sentences, heavy jokes, degrading remarks or inappropriate gestures or even harassment and sexist and sexual violence.

This reality has been underestimated for too long and remained in the shadows. However, as revealed by the #StOpE barometer, launched in 2021, 82% of women surveyed say they are regularly confronted with sexist attitudes or decisions at work and 93% of them consider that these attitudes hinder their professional effectiveness.

These individual injustices not only have an impact on individual performance but also pose a risk to health. Sexism is therefore also a form of glass ceiling that it is time to break.

This is one of the reasons why I ardently supported the law of December 24, 2021 carried by Marie-Pierre Rixain and Christophe Castaner, aimed at promoting economic and professional equality. In particular, it provides for measures to combat stereotypes at school and in universities and binding provisions to promote the presence of women in the management bodies of companies. Many studies have also proven the positive impact of diversity on company performance and employee well-being.

Do we encounter sexism in all socio-professional categories?

Sexism knows no geographic, cultural, generational or social boundaries. It permeates everywhere in our society. Fighting it is therefore a cultural challenge and an issue of civilisation.

And I have the intimate conviction, this is a fight that enhances our society. Because a better society for women is a better society for everyone. It is in this spirit that the President of the Republic has made equality between women and men the great cause of his five-year term. It was time for the highest functions of the State to take up these inequalities which not only hurt and humiliate but which impact our social cohesion.

In what forms is this “ordinary sexism” expressed at work?

Sexism at work is protean. According to the 2021 #StOpE barometer, 8 out of 10 women say they have already heard sexist jokes and almost half have already been the subject of disqualifying remarks, questioning their skills.

I remember, for example, these business meetings in which very often I was taken for the assistant of the people I managed. These acts, which can be daily, are no longer acceptable and employers must be made aware of these issues. Everyone has to win. In the background, it is the issue of real professional equality between women and men that is at stake.

What are the risks and consequences for the women who are victims?

Stress, self-devaluation, loss of confidence and self-esteem, feelings of guilt, sleep disorders, isolation, etc. The different forms of gender-based and sexual violence at work can have significant and rapid repercussions on the physical and psychological health of victims.

Not to mention the long-term impact on the attractiveness and retention of talent because everything ends up being known and this inevitably reflects on the company’s reputation. The freedom of women to speak out to denounce the violence they suffer in the company is in this sense salutary.

Unfortunately, too often they fear losing their jobs or being discredited and “placardized”. It is the responsibility of companies to create working environments conducive to the denunciation of gender-based or sexual violence wherever it originates.

Concretely, what support do we offer today to women who are victims of sexism at work?

As part of the actions carried out by the government, we have reinforced training in the area of ​​support for lawyers, union representatives, members of health, safety and working conditions committees, professional branches, as well as as the professionals of the inspection and control body of the Ministry of Labour.

This support requires above all knowledge of rights by both employees and employers. For this, we work closely with the Defender of Rights. In addition, associations, such as the European association against violence against women, exist to support victims as well as people who prefer to seek information outside their company.

How is the government working to prevent/combat this phenomenon?

Since 2017, we have deployed a whole series of actions. Thus, on May 9, 2018, an action plan was launched by my ministry and the Ministry of Labor to reduce wage inequalities, fight against gender-based and sexual violence at work. This plan, the result of consultation with the social partners, provides for 15 actions aimed in particular at better informing and raising awareness among employees as well as providing better support for victims.

This plan has led to a strengthening of employers’ obligations in terms of preventing gender-based and sexual violence in the company, through the law of September 5, 2018. This, for example, obliges employers to appoint a referent or a referent in in the fight against sexual harassment and sexist behavior in any company employing at least 250 employees. In addition, in July 2017, my ministry established an agreement with the Defender of Rights to improve support for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

At the international level, France ratified, on November 8, Convention No. 190 of the International Labor Organization on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. This convention is the first international standard in this area and recalls the central role of employers in the prevention of violence and harassment.

Finally, on November 25, the international day for the elimination of violence against women, I launched the Manifesto of economic actors against violence against women, signed by 12 committed companies. This Manifesto includes 10 specific actions to combat this scourge that concerns us all.

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