EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Société Générale, France: Increasing the labour market participation of underrepresented groups – women


Organisation Size: 
Financial services
increasing labour market participation of underrepresented groups

Société Générale, a worldwide bank, recently concluded a collective agreement on equality between men and women. This agreement sets out important measures dealing with the whole topic, especially quantitative measures. Regular follow-up is planned, implemented by both management and the trade unions

Organisational background

Société Générale France, the parent company of the Société Générale Group, offers both retail banking and investment services. Société Générale Group employs 103,555 workers in 76 countries. Société Générale France itself employs about 40,000 workers. Social dialogue within the company is significant: 79 collective agreements were concluded in 2005, focused on a wide range of topics, such as wages, profit sharing, working time and workers representation. There are five trade unions at company level. Workers representation is ensured through numerous bodies at company level, as well as at operational unit level. There is also a European Works Council at group level. Société Générale is a member of AFB (Association Française des Banques), an employers organisation affiliated with the MEDEF. Women comprise 53.6% of the overall workforce and 58% of new hires. Women represent 65% of the technicians but only 35.3% of the managers.

These data sketch the background to a collective agreement on equal opportunities between men and women concluded on 30 June 2005. This agreement followed a cross-industry collective agreement concluded on 1 March 2004. This framework agreement has thus been adapted at sectoral and company level.

Description of the initiative

Equal opportunities between men and women were considered, through different means, within the company before 2005. The new collective agreement thus aims at deepening the group’s desire to promote equality. In recent years, there is a greater awareness within the company of this issue. For several years, trade unions requested and expected an agreement on this topic. In addition, the company wants to reflect social diversity and to be attractive on the labour market in order to satisfy its own needs. A social dialogue thus seemed natural and an agreement appeared to be the best method to raise awareness on the topic and to define clear commitments. Four trade unions signed the agreement: CFDT, CFTC, CGT, FO. The agreement’s duration is three years (2005 to 2008) and the collective agreement proposes several elements, covering the whole topic. Each element refers to different measures.

Recruitment: qualitative provisions, for instance, and no discriminatory references in job offers. No selection criteria other than skills during the recruitment process.

Career opportunities: a quantitative objective is planned. In 2008, women will have to represent 40% of the whole management staff (instead of 34% today). Measures to neutralise the negative effects of parental and maternity leave on women’s careers are also planned. Each woman benefiting from a special leave will meet her manager, before and after the leave, in order to study her career evolution. Special support to pass the exam to become manager within the company is provided to workers, including women, who have specific family responsibilities. An important measure implemented in 2005 to 2006 aims to analyse the situation of all women 45 or more years old who gave birth to at least one child. Management undertook a study for each personal case and to propose advancement, when warranted.

Mobility: the agreement aims to grant occupational mobility, while avoiding geographical mobility incompatible with family constraints. In case of difficulty, the management will search for suitable solutions.

Wages: neutralisation of the negative effects resulting from parental, adoption and maternity leaves on wage increases. For example, during the leave, workers continue to benefit from general wage increases. Moreover, if a worker did not benefit from a wage increase for three years before they used a maternity or adoption leave, they will automatically receive a wage increase after the leave.

Conciliation of work and family life: special benefits in order to finance child care services and the setting up of a support service in order to help parents find childcare services.

Awareness-raising actions based on different tools: special tools, such as an intranet website and an internal communication campaign.

The agreement also plans different processes to monitor the implementation of the measures planned. The agreement first creates a new delegation to investigate equality of treatment. This delegation was requested by trade unions, and will analyse claims from workers considering themselves to be victims of discrimination, such as gender discrimination. A very detailed procedure is planned, involving both management and workers’ representatives. Moreover, the implementation of the collective agreement is monitored both by the works council and a specific steering committee. This committee gathers representatives of the different trade unions and representatives of the management. It will meet once a year, beginning in 2006. The committee will analyse statistical data, in accordance with the measures planned by the agreement


The agreement concluded in 2005 is clearly a part of an overall policy. Société Générale has implemented different measures aimed at ensuring equal opportunities between men and women for several years (recruitment, benefits or leave focused on reconciliation between work and private life). The innovative aspect of the agreement is that it plans quantitative objectives on significant issues, such as an increase in the number of female managers. All the measures planned will produce statistical data, thus it will be much easier to monitor implementation, especially through the steering committee. The first meeting of this committee was held at the beginning of June 2006. Some of the measures planned anticipated the evolution of French regulations on this issue (for example, a law of 23 March 2006 related to equal pay between men and women). This policy is supported by the chairman of Société Générale. Another significant aspect is that the planned policy deals with the whole topic of equality between men and women.

The involvement of all the participants within the company, and especially within each sector of activity, is considered a key element of success. The main task for the company is to implement the agreement in all units. Awareness-raising actions and trade unions are essential from that point of view.

The follow-up of the measures is also very important. Cooperation between management and trade unions will be improved as the measures are planned by collective agreement. The motivation of management, including the desire to make the company more attractive on the labour market, is a critical element.

Exemplary and contextual factors

It appears that Société Générale’s collective agreement is more ambitious than those concluded by competitors, because this agreement plans quantitative objectives, and not only general principles. In addition, the policy analysed is part of a general policy focused on diversity within the group. In addition, being assessed by several social rating agencies is a strong incentive to proceed.

Christophe Tessier, Université européenne du travail, Paris

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Add new comment