Sexist violences on campuses : EPF commitment

Mis à jour le 14/10/2021

On the occasion of the seminar Sexist Violence on Campuses: act now!, organized this Friday, July 3 in partnership with WomenVai, HeHop and with the support of UN Women France, Jean-Michel Nicolle, EPF Dean, recalled the commitments that institutions of higher education must make in this area. 

Find his message below: 

" Ladies and Gentlemen,

Higher education institutions are the place where those who tomorrow will form the ruling class are maturing. The main challenge of the formative years is integration into the world of work, especially in the corporate world.

It is therefore both a place and a time where consciences must be built.

Last June, Conference of Grandes Ecoles (CGE) announced the publication of its "first official report on gender equality", entitled "From declaration of intent to experimentation". This book presents, "through feedback and testimonials, examples of implementation: common commitments of institutions, equality strategy on a daily basis, acting with and for students, research as a vector of change".

The authors then formulate "five proposals for action to anchor gender equality in the daily life of institutions" for making the « grandes écoles » an egalitarian and inclusive models of organization and one way is to fight against all forms of discrimination and gender-based and sexual violence,

Roxane Dejours, clinical psychologist and researcher associated with the Laboratory of Clinical Psychology, Psychopathology and Psychoanalysis at the University of Paris, is author of a thesis entitled "Prapatories classes, grandes écoles and entry into adulthood: between impulsive renunciation and sexuality" . She analyses, in a recent research aticle, the "social relationships" that are established during festive activities in grandes écoles.

This theme echoes recent cases of harassment, sexism or homophobia that have occurred recently in business schools.

It shows how parties and their excesses, "knowingly tolerated", have the function of creating an « esprit de corps », but also of learning about the practices of sociability inherent in the ruling condition" and "power relations", "especially sexist ones".

She sees these behaviours as "indispensable cogs for the perpetuation of the domination of men over women".

In schools, gender stereotypes in which women tend to be devalued mark the relationship between girls and boys. Just look at the vocabulary used at parties or integration week-end, where sexist attacks and sexual harassment are never far away.

Moreover, in its annual report on the situation of sexism in France published in 2019, the High Council for Equality between Women and Men described the grandes écoles as "virilist bastions and a melting pot of sexism towards the business world.

Faced with these excesses, what are the schools doing? Measures have been taken in three areas since the end of the 1990s:

- repression with the laws banning hazing and open bars, but above all the law of 4 August 2014 for real equality between women and men,

- prevention with the charters of good practice

- and finally individual psychological monitoring.


However, some academic institutions lack an essential link: the commitment of the school administration to firmly oppose the all too frequent circumvention of official bans. The reasons for this are not due to "the reckless indulgence of school officials," nor to their incompetence in enforcing the rules," but, according to Roxane Dejours, to "social customs, particularly alcoholism," which in many cases is the source of reprehensible behaviour.

These behaviors are systematically trivialized and blamed on a "schoolboy prank", therefore never recognized for what they are, neither by the responsible students of course, nor by the school management, or even sometimes by the students themselves,". Girls who rebel are considered "killjoys".

Moreover, the fight against sexism is denounced as political and therefore systematically disqualified. The objective is to marginalize women’s resistance!

The fight against discrimination must be a priority in the institutions' strategic plan. Silence is the worst enemy of truth. A little less than half of the French Universities declare that they do not have a monitoring and listening unit, an indispensable tool to fight against sexist and sexual violence but also against harassment and all forms of discrimination.

Most of these systems "do not really deal with racist and LGBT phobic violence". Out of the 39 systems identified, just over 20% set up a monitoring and listening unit against ALL forms of discrimination.


Then, what we have to do if we want to change this situation ?

The main proposals that emerge from the CGE's White Paper are threefold:

- To feminize the management team: only 15% of the grandes écoles are headed by women.

- Zero tolerance" of school administrations. In addition, the issue of gender equality must be explicitly displayed in training. This requires, for example, the implementation of compulsory co-educational courses, as this is the case the engineering school of the University of Strasbourg, ECPM, which propose a six-hour "Stereotypes and issues of professional equality between women and men" training course, for first-year students.

- Putting students at the heart of change

Students have particularly distinguished themselves in recent years through some associations and movements, as "Overalls", which fight against sexism in higher education. This movement may be associated with associations dedicated to parity, such as "HeForShe", which have sprung up in several schools (Neoma, Essec, Kedge). This movement "should grow in the next two years,"

It’s necessary to address these issues from the early age to avoid gender bias as much as possible, in particular through the work of alumni associations in engineering, "Elles bougent", "Femmes@numérique" and "Femmes ingénieures", which carry out annual awareness-raising activities among high school girls.


In conclusion, I invite all those involved in higher education to commit themselves to the five main lines of action proposed by the Conférence des grandes écoles:

- regularly produce a diagnosis on equality,

- Formalize an equality strategy and action plan,

- transforming schools into a model of egalitarian and inclusive organization,

- fight against discrimination

- promote debates and exchanges on the issue of gender equality.


I thank you for your attention."