Michelle Obama Lean In, Shirley Chisholm Statue, France Boards: Broadsheet December 3
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Michelle Obama has some thoughts on leaning in, Shirley Chisholm will get a statue in New York, and French companies lead the way in Europe on board diversity. Have a mindful Monday.
• Europe's elite. A group called European Women on Boards last week released its first-ever gender diversity index and came to this conclusion: France, far and away, has by its measure the highest share of women on company boards at 44.2%.
The index assessed gender representation at the 200 largest European listed companies in nine nations—Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the U.K—in an effort to identify best practices. Of the 30 French companies covered in the study, 28 had boards that were at least ⅓ female.
In addition to singling out nations’ overall progress on gender diversity, the report highlighted stand-out companies:
- France’s Kering, parent of luxury brands like Gucci and Alexander McQueen, was named as the top company for board diversity overall, with women making up 60% of its directors.
- French hospitality group Sodexo, meanwhile, was recognized for having the highest board diversity—it’s 53.8% female—among firms with a female chair.
- Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline has the highest board diversity at 45.5% among companies with a woman CEO; it’s led by Emma Walmsley.
France’s high share of female directors follows its 2011 decision to mandate that women make up at least 40% of all CAC 40 boards by the end of 2017. In fact, the top three countries on this list have passed quotas requiring certain levels of gender diversity on boards.
At Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit in London in June, Sodexo’s chair Sophie Bellon voiced her support for legal mechanisms that force companies to address board diversity because she abides by the belief that "what gets measured gets done."
"When you want a company to improve sales or profitability, you just give an objective and everyone is aligned,” she said. Board diversity is just as important a topic, so it’s worth approaching in the same way, she said.
Bellon said the company had learned about improving gender balance from the U.S., since discussions about the benefits of diversity started sooner there than in Europe. But France has since leapfrogged the U.S. in share of women directors. And now the U.S. is taking its turn mimicking the European nation, as California just became the first state with a board diversity mandate.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Lean out. Michelle Obama made a stop in Brooklyn on her Becoming book tour Saturday night, and she had some colorful advice about having it all and Sheryl Sandberg's call for women to lean in. "It’s not always enough to lean in because that sh*t doesn’t work all the time," Obama said. The stadium-sized crowd loved it. "I forgot where I was for a moment!” said Obama. Fortune
• First lady of Lowe's. Have you heard of Sharyn Ellison? She doesn't officially run a company, but it seems like she might as well. Married to former J.C. Penney CEO and current Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison, Sharyn has been closely involved with both companies—a case study in how much a "corporate spouse" can do. Wall Street Journal
• Shirley's statue. New York will put up a statue of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to serve in the House and the first woman to, in 1972, seek the Democratic nomination for president. The statue will go up outside Prospect Park in 2020, helping correct the underrepresentation of women in the city's public arts. And in related news, Viola Davis is set to play Chisholm in an upcoming movie. New York Times
• Movie messages. In an incredible piece, New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis examines what she learned from movies about being a woman—good and bad. "I learned that women needed to be protected, controlled, and left at home. I learned that men led, women followed," she writes. But her cinematic education wasn't all bad—read on for the positive messages Dargis learned from film. New York Times
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Lee's steering Steering. After Democrats made their choices for House leadership last week, Nancy Pelosi has recommended California Rep. Barbara Lee for a new position overseeing the Steering and Policy Committee. Lee lost a narrow race for caucus chair, and the overall results left Democrats without a woman of color in leadership. In more political news, two women—Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Nita M. Lowey—will lead the House Appropriations Committee for the first time. Politico
• Groping garb. You might have seen this floating around at the end of last week—an ad agency developed a "smart dress" that tracked how often the three women wearing versions of it were groped. The tally: four hours out at a club, a total of 157 gropes. A marketing stunt, but a potentially powerful one. Vox
• Can I get a reservation? Chef Dominique Crenn won a third Michelin star, making her the first woman in the United States to pass that culinary milestone. Her restaurant is San Francisco's Atelier Crenn. New York Times
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