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Where are the Women in French Publications?

French female journalists are calling for changes in how they are treated by others in the industry. Over 200 women from three major French publications – Le Parisien, L’Obs, and La Provence – wrote letters to their editors demanding equal representation and pay.

These demands were inspired by the revelation of the amount of sexual misconduct and gender gaps occurring in the media business, beginning especially with the Harvey Weinstein scandal in America. France has seen a handful of changes in the wake of the scandal, including an increase in the number of cases of sexual assault that were being reported.

The war on gender gaps and sexual misconduct in media turned to the newsroom two weeks ago when Le Parisien, a daily publication in Paris, announced that it was planning on hiring a new editor for its weekend edition. The director general of Le Parisien is a woman, but there are no other women on the upper editorial team.

In response, 77 of the publication’s women employees responded to the news by applying to the job themselves, except all of their applications were totally identical.

“There were three, then four, then five of us talking while having lunch,” education and society correspondent Christel Brigaudeau said. “It was a joke at first. But then we said, let’s talk about this idea to all the female journalists to see what they think. And everyone was quite enthusiastic.”

Along with these applications, they also sent a letter that noted the fact that gender is not a factor in someone’s job qualifications.

“Being a woman isn’t a skill, but neither is being a man,” the letter said.

The letter was subsequently endorsed by others in the newsroom, with over 100 women from Le Parisien now standing behind it. About 100 male colleagues also circulated a separate letter supporting the women in the office.

“The action comes originally from the women. It’s their idea, and we as men are just saying, ‘Hey, it’s a very good idea,’” Louis Moulin, a male employee who signed the support letter, said.

The letter has since gained nationwide attention as well as support from 100 more female journalists from the other two publications.

“Their way of expressing themselves was very intelligent and effective,” Violette Lazard, an investigative reporter at L’Obs, said. “The letter says lots of things—it sent a clear and implacable message.”

Over 60 women at L’Obs composed a letter to the publication’s management, deploring the pay gap for men and women of equal seniority and qualification. 60 out of 65 female employees at La Provence, which is based in the Marseilles region, also called out their publication for a lack of women in management roles.

The letters have received mixed responses since their circulation. While the editors of both L’Obs and La Provence have yet to publicly or privately comment on the movement, management at Le Parisien have acknowledged the gender gap at the publication. They have also tried to ameliorate the situation by asking individual women employees involved in the group application to individually apply for the editor position.

French journalists, however, are still optimistic that change is coming their way.

“Historically, women are placed in situations where they’re competing with each other in a patriarchal system,” said Aude Lorriaux, a French freelance journalist and spokesperson for a group of French female journalists working towards equality called Prenons La Une. “This movement of sororité among women, who aren’t well-known feminists but who just work in these newsrooms, is a very encouraging sign.”

Hopefully these letters will bring change to the French publications and we can be one step closer to gender equality in the workplace.

Featured Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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