Speaking about gender diversity leaders in Europe, France belongs to the top scoring countries in a long term. Since the 1970’s, women in France have been encouraged by the French government to enter the labor market and simultaneously to take care of their children (they were offered a paid maternity leave and extensive childcare services already from the age of two).
Another important measure with a positive impact on gender equity in France, was the introduction of quotas on company boards, which helped significantly to increase the share of female directors in listed companies. Currently, France is the only country to have over 40% of women on company boards (Source: EIGE´s GEI 2020).
Today we take the unique opportunity to introduce to you a French company, one of the EWoB 2019 GDI Best Practice Leaders – L´Oreal with Ms. Margaret Johnston-Clarke, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. L´Oreal scored among top 10 out of STOXX 600 companies in the EWoB Gender Diversity Index 2019. It was the first French company to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Office.
Evolution of D&I agenda at L´Oreal
“Back in 2000, when I joined the company, most of our marketing managers were men. Of course, we are happy to welcome people of all genders at L’Oréal but it does make sense to have our heavily-female consumer base reflected in our workforce. We have come a long way since 2000!”
First proactive steps towards D&I were taken in the US by the current CEO and Chairman, Jean-Paul Agon, president of L’Oreal US at the time.
L’Oreal was the first French company to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO). Initially the focus of DIO was on discrimination and disability, but the question of gender balance came in very soon after that. It caught on incredibly fast.
L’Oreal was very pro-active in seeking advice from experts on possible ways to close the gender pay gap. We succeeded to eliminate the gender pay gap in France by 2019, while in 2007 it still had represented 10%.
Pursuing the D&I agenda is a combined effort of the CEO and entire strategic team. It didn’t happen naturally, organically. It is a conscious collective effort of the entire company. We have realized, it is really important to promote women not only in HR or Communications, but especially in our STEM departments, which play an important role in our business with a strong dependence on chemical industry. We strive to take a fully diverse approach in terms of including people of all genders by trying to get more men involved in the beauty segment of our business and more women in STEM departments, specifically we aim to promote women in IT.
In 2011, the adoption of French directive requiring 40% women on boards of directors, pushed us to accelerate the progress in gender balance improvements. As a result, L´Oreal has increased the share of women in key strategic leadership positions from 32% in 2011 to 54% in 2019.
Measuring gender balance became a matter of course at L´Oreal across all levels of the organization, from corporate offices to point of sale to factories and distribution centers.
We have been constantly advocating quotas. As a company, we are strongly supporting the new initiative proposed by the French Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunity to adapt quotas to ensure that more women access leadership positions. Although the pandemic has temporarily blunted the efforts in this area, the initiative remains supported and on top of the minister’s agenda.
Work-life balance is something we strongly believe in as a company. Since 2013 we have established a parental leave, followed by an introduction of a 14-weeks paid parental leave for women and more recently a 6-weeks paid parental leave for fathers and co-parents. L´Oreal has actively participated since 2018 in the network of companies “One in Three Women” aiming to reduce domestic violence predominantly affecting women.
D&I department at L´Oreal
Our Chief D&I Officer is seated within the HR department and reports directly to the Chief HR Officer (N+1) and indirectly to the CEO (N+2).
In a few countries/subsidiaries, there are teams dedicated to diversity and inclusion (e.g the U.S., Canada, France and soon UK & Ireland). And in most markets the D&I agenda is handled by the local HR department. Today our subsidiaries are addressing all these D&I topics and have involved local ‘diversity champions’ from the Business.
Suggestions for companies to develop a diverse leadership
For the companies, who would like to learn from one of the Best Practise Leaders in pursuing the gender diversity, here are 3 strategic steps suggested by Ms.Margaret Johnston-Clarke, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at L´Oreal.
- Onboard your CEOs on the importance of gender diversity and make them directly involved in D&I agenda
- Make sure you understand why women are not being promoted to the decision-making positions in your company. There are many possible reasons and you should understand which specific reasons impact the environment in your company in order to take the rights steps, implement the right tactics to achieve the desired gender balance improvements. E.g. in a certain market, there is an issue with parental leave or you may find out that women in your company are not feeling confident to apply for promotion because of sexism, strong unconscientious biases within the company, which are hindering the inclusive environment
- Educate and train your employees to remove the barriers by addressing your findings from Step 2
Get inspired by some of the key initiatives at L´Oreal to pursue gender balance in your company:
- – Joining a cross-company training program for women in leadership ‘EVE’ (https://www.eveprogramme.com/en/)
- – Embracing internal education and mentorship opportunities
- – Providing external education and coaching programs for women with focus on assertiveness and related skills (e.g. learn to be heard)
- – Participating in cross-company mentorship program introduced by the Women International Foundation
- – Constantly running internal communication campaigns to educate employees about the importance of diversity & inclusion
- – Promoting diversity and inclusion through a dedicated section on L’Oreal websites
On behalf of EWoB and its supporters, a big THANK YOU to Ms. Margaret Johnston-Clarke, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at L´Oreal for sharing her inspiring insights with us.