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French women walk out of work to protest gender pay gap

Boris Horvat, AFP | A woman holds a banner reading "Equality" during an International Women’s Day demonstration in the southern French city of Marseille on March 8, 2015.
3 min

French women responded to a rallying call from a French feminist organisaiton to walk out of their jobs at precisely 4:34pm on Monday, November 7, to protest income inequality in the workplace.


Women in France earn around 15.1 percent less than men, according to the latest data from the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat, which French feminist organisation Les Glorieuses has calculated to mean women will be essentially working for free for the rest of the year after 4:34pm on November 7.

“As of 4:34pm [and 7 seconds] on November 7, women will be working ‘voluntarily’,” the organisation said in a statement on its website. “We call on women, men, unions and feminist organisations to join the movement… and to hold events and protests in order to make income inequality a central political problem. By tackling this subject, we’re showing that the gender pay gap is not just a ‘woman’s issue’.”

The demonstration, which has been dubbed #7NOVEMBRE16H34, was inspired by a similar initiative in Iceland last month, during which thousands of women protested against the country’s 14 percent gender pay gap ending the workday 14 percent early at 2:38pm.

Just two days after the walk-out in Iceland, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report that found if the global economic gender gap continues to shrink at its present rate, it could take up to 170 years before it closes.

But Les Glorieuses said it’s not willing to wait that long for equal pay, and has called on women across France to take a stand. At the time of publication, 1,800 people had committed on Facebook to participating in #7NOVEMBRE16H34, while an online petition garnered nearly 1,400 signatures.

“Our goal is to take the petition to Laurence Rossignol [French minister of families, children and women’s rights] by Monday at the latest to demand equal pay,” Alix Heuer, co-founder of Les Glorieuses alongside Rebecca Amsellem, told FRANCE 24.

Several women’s rights groups have also committed to holding events in support of the protest. The organisation Féministes Plurielles has called on volunteers in the western city of Nantes to help put up posters on Friday promoting the walk-out, while the group Régards de Femmes has scheduled a rally in the southwestern city of Lyon for November 7.

A demonstration is also expected to be held at the symbolic Place de la République in Paris the same day, according to Heuer.

France has a mixed history when it comes to gender equality. Although there were women in government as early as 1936, they weren’t officially granted the right to vote until 1944 – many years after the majority of European countries.

Since then, women’s rights have advanced by leaps and bounds. France currently ranks among the top 20 countries in gender equality, according to the WEF. Yet even so, the pay gap remains a major issue.

“We make up around 52 percent of the overall population,” Les Glorieuses said on its website. “We don’t want to wait until 2186 for equal salaries. We don’t want to wait 170 years for this parity.”

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