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Study shows sexism rife in French workplaces

media CESP president Brigitte Grésy presents the report with Women's Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (R) looking on

Eight out of 10 French women say they regularly face sexism at work, according to a government-commissioned study. As Women's Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem prepares a law on equality between the sexes, the report shows there is along way to go in the French workplace.

The study was carried out for a committee on equality at work, the CSEP, set up by Vallaud-Belkacem in January.

It polled over 15,000 women on their experiences at work and found:

  • 80 per cent said they are regularly exposed to attitudes and decisions at work;
  • 54 per cent felt it had had a negative impact on their career;
  • 46 per cent felt they were given tasks below their level of competence or were too closely supervised;
  • 81 per cent reported hearing sexist clichés, such as "She's hysterical" or "She's worse than a man";
  • 92 per cent believe that sexist attitudes undermine employees' confidence or disrupts their work.

Respondents said that personal remarks about women's intellect or their bodies were often presented as humourous, with 69 per cent reporting sneering remarks about blondes, 59 per cent hearing phrases such as "She's in a bad mood, it must be her period" and 42 per cent "Who's this Barbie?"

Women's rights in France - given or taken?

"I believe that in order to fight sexism we have to build awareness," CSEP president Brigitte Gresy told RFI. "What we've done is make the phenomenon visible because it is invisible, often because it is disguised by two essential things, humour - 'It's not sexism, it's a joke' - and flirting 'You don't get it, I was just flirting'.

"Except that humour and seduction only work if there's a dialogue between two people. Most of the time sexism is a unilateral relationship imposed on the other, who is in a position of inferiority. Sexism is stopping women from getting on at work. It’s also making people unhappy at work."

The study also polled men.

A majority agreed that sexism exists in the workplace but, at 56 per cent, a much lower proportion than women.

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