With Australian statistics showing that many of our top company boardrooms and management have few female representatives, it’s interesting to see how other countries are working towards addressing similar problems.

France has implemented a system whereby companies with a good record of moving women into executive positions were awarded by the Ministry of Women’s Rights, where companies that fail to address the issues of gender equality can be punished by the same Ministry with a fine. All companies that rank in the country’s top 120 companies are subject to this system of rewards and punishment.

The French Minister for Women’s Rights says “The purpose of these rankings is to shine light on the gap between men and women in the governance of companies, to showcase the companies that have taken the matter to heart, and to encourage others to do the same.”

These rankings are based on a number of factors including the number of women on the executive committee and board of directors, and whether the organisation has concrete goals for achieving gender equality in the workplace. France has also implemented a system where large companies need at least 20% female representation on boards by 2014, and 40% by 2017.

Punishments for non-compliant companies can include a fine of up to 1 percent of their total payroll per month, and a ban on bidding on public contracts. The philosophy of such a system is clear – if an organisation doesn’t prioritise gender equality, there will be financial repercussions.

France’s system is an excellent example of what can be achieved in the promotion of gender equality, provided there is a strong commitment and support from political parties.