Women, still underrepresented in future French start-ups

A recent ranking highlights the lack of women in the top positions of French startups. How to explain these inequalities between men and women?




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Do you know Next40? This seal was created in 2019 by the French government with one objective: to support and promote 40 young French companies, therefore start-ups, which they consider promising and with the potential to become world technological leaders. To be part of Next40, companies must have a minimum turnover and be headquartered in France. The 40 “elected” cover different sectors. We find, among others, the media Brut., the online music platform Deezer, but also the e-commerce sites Vestiaire Collective and Veepee.

Positions of responsibility occupied mainly by men

A recent study conducted by recruiting firm Spike and revealed by Challenges magazine indicates that women are still under-represented in Next40 societies. In total, more than 30,000 profiles on LinkedIn were studied between February and April 2022. The result is as follows: no woman is at the head of one of the 40 companies. However, they are in fact present in all these companies, as they represent almost half of the workforce (46.6%). Fortunately, companies stand out like Brut. which occupies the first place in the ranking with almost 55% of women in its teams and almost 41% in the position of Top Manager. The podium is completed by Veepee and Vestiaire Collective.

The worlds of media and fashion have more women in positions of responsibility, even if they don’t hold leadership roles like CEO. On the other hand, the sectors of aeronautics and video games occupy the last position in the ranking. Loft Orbital Technologies, which specializes in making satellites, is ranked 39th, while video game developer and publisher Voodoo is ranked 31st. Ruben Arbnold, one of the co-founders of the recruitment company Spike, points out that companies that are at the bottom of the rankings are far from underperforming and being at the bottom of the class, “but being in the Next40 comes with an added responsibility!”.

How to explain the absence of women in Next40?

Women hold leadership positions in companies CAC40. Engie is led by Catherine MacGregor and Orange by Christel Heydemann since April 4th. But Next40 companies are struggling to go that route. For what reasons? Ruben Arbnold explains that start-ups don’t work the same way as CAC 40 companies. “Founders are often groups of friends who form the core of male teams. And in the growth phase, management teams don’t necessarily renew themselves”.

In an interview granted to the moderator’s blogspecialist digital media, Corine Busson-Benhammou, general manager of Angers French Tech, justifies the absence of women because of “gender stereotypes, mainly around technology sectors, which were anchored from a very early age in the collective imagination of children. Training is also not up to par, as only a quarter of women obtain technical diplomas in schools”.

Fortunately, actions are being implemented to have more women in the startups of the future. Descartes Underwriting, ranked 20th by Spike, has committed to having a strategic committee made up of 20% women by 2025 and 40% by 2028.





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