Say “bonjour” to France’s new gender-balanced cabinet.
France’s newly-elected president, Emmanuel Macron, filled his cabinet with 11 female members and 11 male members, hinting at his plans to see women represented equally in government. Macron selected members of his cabinet from both sides of the political spectrum with the intentions of upholding his promise to balance political representation. Last Wednesday, his press office announced that “It is a government of renewal.”
Among the freshly appointed cabinet members are newcomers to the political arena, including a head of a business school and a head of a university. One such outsider, Agnes Buzyn, was appointed to fill the role of health minister. Buzyn began her career as a doctor, specializing in hematology before going on to become a university professor in medicine. She authored numerous scientific articles in her area of expertise and led research teams. Later, she led and sat on the board of directors for health organizations.
Francoise Nyssen, who was appointed minister of culture, is another newcomer to politics. She runs a publishing house responsible for some of France’s most popular modern works. Though she is the first culture minister appointed from the private sector in a long time, her appointment has been largely non-controversial.
Similarly, Laura Flessel-Colovic, a former fencer and the new sports minister, accepted her government role without backlash. Flessel-Colovic holds the most Olympic medals of any female Olympian in France.
Meanwhile, coming out the European Parliament, Sylvie Goulard is a seasoned politician who now holds the defense minister position. As she takes on her role in the cabinet, the defense minister from the previous administration transitions to the new European and Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Critics of Macron’s cabinet choices say that he failed to do enough for gender equality in government. During his campaign, Macron promised a ministry for the person in charge of women’s equality in France. Unable to deliver on his promise, Macron made that person a state secretary, who holds a lower rank and wields less power.
Macron’s distribution of power among the men and women in his cabinet is also under scrutiny. According to The New York Times, there are eight key ministries: prime minister, interior minister, defense minister, European and foreign affairs minister, economy minister, justice minister, green transition minister, and labor ministers. Of the 11 women occupying seats in his cabinet, only 2 are leading major ministries: the defense minister and the labor minister. That means only 25 percent of the key ministries are led by women, leading critics to suggest that some element of gender inequality persists in his government.
Nevertheless, Macron adheres to his commitment to see women represented equally in government. As he himself stated, “Women represent 53% of the electoral body, so it’s unacceptable that they make up less than 30% of those elected to the National Assembly.” Of his released list of over 400 candidates for Parliament, half are men and half are women.
The country holds its legislative elections June 11 and June 18.
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