What is the relationship between Angela Merkel, a conference at the Élysée Palace and a club for digital entrepreneurs? #JamaisSansElles!
A Franco-German conference on digital affairs was held at the Elysée Palace on October 27, 2015.
When they saw the photo of a panel composed exclusively of men, the founders of Girl Power 3.0, Natacha Quester-Séméon and Tatiana F-Salomon, sounded the alarm via a tweet. They appealed to the Elysée Palace’s communication department as well as to Benoît Thieulin, president of the CNNum (French Digital Council): “No women on the stage and very few in the audience: sad to still see that in 2015 !”
Is it because the conference took place in the presence of Angela Merkel that the image of the panel composed exclusively of men seemed particularly shocking?
The debate that ensued on Twitter was intense (see tweets below). Axelle Lemaire, Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, responded quickly, as did men like Benoît Thieulin and Guy Mamou-Mani (President of Syntec Digital). The latter is quoted in Le Point magazine saying: “It was that tweet that suddenly made me realize the incongruity of the situation. The event was made up 100% of men”. That same day on Twitter, as well, he made a commitment in less than 140 characters: refusing to participate in any conference where there are no women. Gilles Babinet and Henri Verdier in turn made the same commitment, also on Twitter.
A few weeks later, all the protagonists came together at Gilles Babinet’s for a meeting of the Club des Gentlemen, of which they are members. Other well-known figures such as Benoît Thieulin and Jean-Michel Blanquer were also present. This group of entrepreneurs, leading Tech figures, humanists, and players in and promoters of public debate, all involved in the digital transformation of society, is chaired both by Tatiana F-Salomon and Guy Mamou-Mani (joint presidency). Both then proposed to lauch a joint appeal. That same evening the group agreed on the name of the initiative: thus was born #JamaisSansElles!
The following day Tatiana wrote out the appeal, which was published in Le Point magazine on January 23, 2016.
Rapidly, the fact that men had gotten involved and had committed individually, alongside women in favor of gender equality, proved to be a tremendous asset. The novelty and disruptive nature of the concept of #JamaisSansElles made the hashtag one of the most shared online, and established the movement that accompanies it as a key player in the field. In fact, the Gentlemen are very active on Twitter and have all told more than 600,000 followers.
A disruptive citizens’ movement
The flow of tweets and positive reactions circulating on Twitter surprise the initiators of the movement. Two hours after the publication of the appeal, the hashtag ends up in trending topics. Instant success. High-ranking personalities commit: Alain Juppé, Jacques-Antoine Granjon, Nicolas Sekkaki, Philippe Saurel. The movement becomes an association with a women’s council with Laurence Parisot, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Clara Gaymard, whose members have 1.2 million followers.
Conference organizers are also surprised by the wave of highly acclaimed leaders who commit. The enthusiasm for #JamaisSansElles propels the question of gender equality to centre stage: the composition of panels, TV programs, boards of directors, the place of women in culture, science and sports, everything is seen in terms of gender equality and the recognition of the role, the legitimacy and the presence of women in the spotlight alongside men !
In the face of this new, or at least newly visible, easily expressible citizens’ demand, events organizers are sometimes taken unawares and start asking #JamaisSansElles to find speakers. Some even understand the importance of the issues and want to join the movement and work towards obtaining the #JamaisSansElles label for their conference. They establish rules relating to gender equality and balance that are much more rigorous than those they previously observed.
On the citizens’ side, the movement obtained unexpected reactions and support. The vibrant twitter community contributed to fact checking the signatories. The public kept watch and shared. A picture of an event that is composed 100% of men leaves a strong impression on both women and men. The time for simple declarations or demonstrating good intentions is over.
For the association: “#JamaisSansElles signifies respecting commitments and keeping one’s word, implementing concrete actions for gender equality.” She specifies that “It is not a question of opposing or imposing oneself, but of collaborating”, and insists on recalling that benevolence is essential: “We do not name and shame. We propose instead ‘name and honor’.” The tone is set by Tatiana F-Salomon: “#JamaisSansElles, because the One is the Other, because feminism equals humanism, because equality is our common future.”
The community has given wings to #JamaisSansElles
The community that has federated with #JamaisSansElles is very committed. It has increased the scope of the messages and developed its notoriety nationwide. #JamaisSansElles went viral. Far from being a one-off occurrence, the hashtag is alive and well and has not stopped growing over the past 18 months.
Every day the hashtag is used to share news and comments and to raise awareness of issues relating to diversity and gender equality. It has become a powerful vehicle in getting citizens, decision-makers, events organizers and politicians to talk about the lack of women in public debates and institutions.
Some figures: between January 2016 and today, there have been nearly 24 000 contributors, 94 000 tweets and retweets posted, 424 million impressions, and potentially 60 million people reached*.
“The community sometimes challenges and denounces, but the #JamaisSansElles approach is based on positive action.” For Natacha Quester-Séméon, spokesperson and head of digital strategy at #JamaisSansElles, “Digital is in the DNA of #JamaisSansElles. The Appeal is not a petition, but a personal commitment that the signatories make on a daily basis. It is real and visible action. With Twitter everyone can participate through widespread sharing of information and efforts to promote gender equality and celebrate female role models, as well. ”
The relevance of the approach and the political impact of the substantive work carried out over the months was felt during the period of the presidential elections. The appointment of women in the government of Édouard Philippe has been widely commented on in various morning and evening radio and television news programs. However, beyond these appointments, and this is something new, the allocation of key positions in ministerial cabinets and in the National Assembly has been carefully examined. Clearly, the place of women in political representation has become mainstream, and it is obvious that digital gender equality is not enough: it is “qualitative equality” that is in debate.
What we mean here is gender equality in all spheres of decision-making and influence, including in the heart of the Elysee, which, alas, remains almost exclusively a male domain.
If the attention paid to balance and gender equality was so great after the elections, it was also because the work had been started very early on in the presidential campaign. In addition to the signing of the #JamaisSansElles Appeal by several candidates in the primaries, the association proposed a Charter for the presidential candidates (see here). Significant peaks on Twitter were recorded when the charter was signed by the candidates Emmanuel Macron and Benoît Hamon, offering the association the audience of a new media. Similar peaks were renewed during the formation and reshuffling of President Macron’s first government (see here). Many questions were widely shared: Will a woman be appointed Prime Minister or President of the National Assembly? How many women will be chiefs of staff?…
Among the founders, Tatiana and Natacha have an extensive experience in grassroots social engagement, and, for the past twenty years or so, in digital empowerment, in conjunction with the Association Les Humains Associés (created in 1984 and web pioneer since 1994). The community is conscious of supporting actions, through sharing on social networks, that do not require traditional means of communication or marketing campaigns, but the scope of the messages that operate in a much more organic way is all the greater.
#JamaisSansElles is preparing to conquer the Wild West.
The principles of #JamaisSansElles have been adopted in many countries. Last October on Twitter 10 Danish deputies announced their commitment to #JamaisSansElles, thus launching a widespread debate in Denmark. In the fall of 2017 the San Francisco hub will be launched, enabling Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to follow the French and truly take action for gender equality in all spheres.