Big schools: the parity of promotions, bulwark with inequalities?


It was in 1975 that the Haby law imposed the mixity in the national education. If, since that date, access to a training can not be refused to a girl or a young boy because of her sex, it is more than 40 years later that the higher education sectors are far from to be mixed. The differences in orientation between girls and boys are “in the sense of social psychology a bumper to the mix  ” as the psychologist Françoise Vouillot points out.

Even today, girls and boys do not choose the same sectors with an over-representation of young women in the literary and human sciences sectors, and young men in the scientific and technical fields. Some sectors are an exception: this is the case of law, medicine and management, whose composition has been disrupted in recent years.

Management schools are one of those rare areas where there is parity among students. Indeed, the results of the latest gender equality barometer of the Conference of Grandes Ecoles (CGE) confirm that, this year again, 100% of management schools show a perfect mix, and even a quasi-parity, while As a comparison only 14.8% of engineering schools can be classified as mixed. Should we see models to follow?

Variable thresholds

Mixedness reflects the joint presence of representatives of both sexes in a social group. But in what proportions? The points of view diverge. In a first acceptance, the presence of a single woman in a large group of men would qualify this one as mixed. In social psychology, the mixing of a group is recognized when the proportion of women or men is at least 30%, because this threshold is a necessary condition for the recognition of a minority in a collective.

In the labor market, a family of trades is considered as mixed since the proportion of women and men that compose it is between 40% and 60% ( DARES, 2013 ). This is also the proportion that the Equality Women-Men group of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles holds.

In order to build a society that guarantees equality between women and men, the principle of mixed training can not be discussed. For it is a way to fight against stereotypes, to deconstruct prejudices or negative representations and value judgments that everyone has with respect to the opposite sex or his own group. And, in this perspective, higher education institutions must give students the opportunity to work in a mixed environment to develop skills without judgments and behaviors dictated by stereotypes.

An automatic distribution of roles

That said, gender diversity is not the guarantee of equality between women and men, as several research studies have shown, pointing out its negative effects . In a mixed universe will automatically reproduce the asymmetry of the relationship between the sexes still present in the whole of society. The role assigned to each sex is then at the heart of social interactions between students, which reinforces stereotypes.

In the field of management sciences, for example, students do not go to the same specialties , the former being for example more likely to opt for finance and its rewarding careers, the latter being more easily attract by the communication sector or human resources for example. Behind the façade parity is a segmentation of the sectors.

Gender diversity also has an effect on the differences in attitudes and behaviors between the sexes, legitimizing, insidiously, choices of orientation, pathways and gendered trades. And in a deeper way, gender diversity has consequences for the students’ appreciation of their own skills, manifested by self-assessment of their skills and self-esteem among young girls and by discomfort. young boys who feel compelled to conform to the masculine model and its representations in the world of work and in society.

Of course, there is no question of giving up because we know that it is the guarantee to give everyone the same learning conditions, a key to “living well” together and a source of wealth. The lack of diversity could only reinforce the gender inequalities we are fighting against. But arriving at a perfect distribution between young women and men in a school’s workforce is not the ultimate goal. This can not be enough to correct stereotypes and schools must match this diversity of recruitment with concrete actions to promote equality.

Awareness actions

It is by creating a working group “Equality Women-Men” then by committing in January 2013 in the drafting of the charter for equality between women and men in higher education that the Conference of Grandes Ecoles encouraged management schools to act collectively. To pilot all these programs, schools are also asked every year to produce gender statistics as part of the Gender Equality Barometer.

More concretely, the CGE invites schools to appoint a referent responsible for supporting the implementation of the actions defined in the framework of the charter. These actions are mainly oriented towards the equality of access to the grandes écoles, on the sensitization of the students and the personnel to the impacts of the gender stereotypes on their professional projects, on the respect of the equality men-men in the activities of the students · E · s, educational or associative, and in communication tools, etc.

As part of the second edition of the “Stereotypes Busters” competition , the students of the member schools, in a mixed team, were invited to present an original project on sexism on a daily basis, through a representation in the form of a poster or video of real-life situations illustrating the theme.

Schools signatories of the Equality between Women and Men also commit themselves to act in their own organization. Currently, only 17% of management schools can present themselves as mixed models with their students. It is by evolving to give as much space to women as to men that they can prepare their students for a fair and fulfilling professional life.

Author Bios: Pascale Borel is a Professor and Researcher in Management at ESC Clermont Group – CRCGM at Groupe ESC Clermont, Fatiha Gas is the Director of ESIEA at the Union of Independent Grandes Ecoles (UGEI) and Krista Finstad-Milion is an Associate Professor at ICN Business School