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The stars of this year’s Women’s Forum were the men who promise to change the world

The predictable topic for discussion at last week’s Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France was quotas.  Dubbed the Davos of women, the annual gathering attracted a raft of female business and political leaders, and 23 chieftains of industry — 13 of them men — committed to six concrete measures to improve the gender balance in their companies over the next 12 months. The measures included pledges to make the advancement of women a top strategic priority at the chief executive level, to require female candidates in every recruitment pool, and to deliver specific targets for more female representation at all levels of their companies.

Maurice Lévy, chief executive of the advertising company Publicis; Carlos Ghosn, the chief of the carmakers Renault and Nissan; and James Turley, global head of the accounting firm Ernst & Young, were among those who took to the stage to plead the case for more women throughout corporate hierarchies.

“This is strategically as important to our businesses as revenue growth or product innovation,” said Mr. Turley, one of the drivers of the initiative. “We need women if we want to remain competitive.”

Multinationals like the nuclear giant Areva and the food service company Sodexo have appointed men as diversity officers in order, they say, to communicate more effectively to the male executives running operational units that they should or must promote women.

Michel Landel, head of Sodexo, stressed the importance of a visible and audible commitment at the chief executive level: “It’s a man’s world, and companies have been shaped by men,” he said.  Mr. Landel also voiced his support of quotas, insisting that that without enforceable quotas the numbers would simply not budge. “You need quotas,” he said. “Unless you take very, very aggressive steps, things will not change.”

Read more in coverage from The New York Times.


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