By appointing a cabinet containing as many women as men, France's new leaders on Wednesday struck a blow against the country's reputation as a laggard on political gender equality.
The appointments made by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault Ayrault, the day after he was appointed premier by incoming President Francois Hollande, boosted the proportion of women in ministerial posts from only four out of 25 (16 per cent) in the previous administration of Francois Fillon to 17 out of 34 (50 per cent).
Prior to the naming of the new French government, the percentage of women in the governments of the 27 European Union countries - which do not include Iceland or Sweden - stood at 23.4, according to the Robert Schuman Foundation.
France was formerly in 18th position, just behind Italy, which currently has three women among its 18 cabinet members.
Comparisons of the true influence of women in government of course have to take into account the relative importance of the posts held.
However the following are the numbers and percentages of women in the main European governments:
- Iceland: Five of its nine ministers are women (55.5 per cent), including Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir;
- Sweden: 13 out of 24 ministers are women (54 per cent);
- Norway: 10 out of 20 (50 per cent) - Switzerland: four out of eight (50 per cent) - France: 17 out of 34 (50 per cent);
- Finland: nine out of 19 (47.5 per cent);
- Austria: six out of 14 (43 per cent);
- Denmark: nine out of 23 (39 per cent), including Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt;
- Belgium: five out of 13 (38.5 per cent);
- Germany: six out of 16 (37.5 per cent), including Chancellor Angela Merkel
- The Netherlands: four out of 12 (33 per cent) in the outgoing government, which resigned on April 23;
- Spain: four out of 14 (28.5 per cent);
- Luxembourg: four out of 15 (26.5 per cent);
- Cyprus: three out of 12 (25 per cent);
- Bulgaria: four out of 17 (22 per cent);
- Britain: five out of 23 (21 per cent);
- Poland: four out of 20 (20 per cent);
- Italy: three out of 18 (16.5 per cent) - Portugal: two out of 12 (16.5 per cent) - Malta: two out of 12 (16.5 per cent);
- Ireland: two out of 15 (13.5 per cent) - Lithuania: two out of 15 (13.5 per cent);
- Czech Republic: two out of 16 (12.5 per cent);
- Romania: two out of 21 (9.5 per cent);
- Hungary: one out of 11 (9 per cent);
- Slovenia: one out of 13 (7.5 per cent) - Estonia: one out of 13 (7.5 per cent);
- Slovakia: one out of 14 (7 per cent);
- Greece: one out of 18 (5.5 per cent)
Sources: AFP, Robert Schuman Foundation.