Eighty-two famous actresses and female directors from around the world were the first to enter the Festival Palace entrance.
They were led by Australian actress Cate Blanchett, the 12th woman Golden Palm jury chair in 71 years, and veteran French film director Agnès Varda,
Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard were in the ranks, as were US blockbuster directors Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins.
"We demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so they can best reflect the world in which we live," a statement, read by Blanchett in English and Varda in French.
They called for "a world that allows all of us in front and behind the camera to thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues".
Dearth of women directors
With Cannes under fire for its dearth of women directors, the world's top film festival hoped to the march would fend off some of the criticism.
The number of women represented the 82 films by female directors who have competed for the top Palme d'Or prize since 1946 -- a number dwarfed by the nearly 1,700 male contenders.
The group stopped halfway up the stairs to the Palais des Festivals to mark the obstacles women face in trying to reach the top.
"The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all," Blanchett declared. "Let's climb!"
Several participants, among them Kristen Stewart, wore suits and tuxedos, in a show of defiance to Cannes' red-carpet dress code, has led to women being stopped from entering past premieres for not wearing high heels.
Weinstein in Cannes
The #MeToo campaign, which has seen thousands of women recount experiences of sexual assault and harassment, was launched after the exposure of film moghul Harvey Weinstein.Cannes was the scene of several of his alleged attacks on actresses.
The festival set up an anti-harassment hotline this year.
The number has already received several calls since the festival's launch on 9 May, French Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said this weekend.
Cannes "must be a safe space for women," she stressed.