A district council in eastern France has been fined €90,000 (£81,000) for appointing too many women to its management team in breach of public-sector gender parity laws.

Public institutions are usually fined for failing to meet the statutory 40 per cent quota of women in top jobs under a 2012 parity law. This is the first time a state body is known to have been penalised for appointing more than 60 per cent women to senior positions. Few employers were aware that the maximum limit could apply to women as well as men.

Jean-François Debat, the chairman of the Bourg-en-Bresse council, is unapologetic. “I think it’s comical to be punished for this reason,” he said. “Not only do I stand by our appointments, I’m proud of having so many women in our management teams.”

According to the local prefecture, the district council has appointed four women for each man in a senior post.

Mr Debat plans to appeal to the government to lift the fine. “Our council deserves to be applauded, not penalised,” he said.

Across France, local government offices are far from reaching the 40-per-cent quota for women, with the most recent assessment saying they had achieved only 34 per cent.

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Earlier this year the finance ministry was fined €1.7 million (more than £1.5m) for failing to meet the quota, while the foreign ministry had to pay a penalty of €450,000.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, placed gender equality close to the top of the agenda for the G7 summit he hosted in the costal resort of Biarritz last weekend.

Mr Macron has also made parity one of the central aims of his presidency. His party fielded a gender-balanced list of parliamentary candidates in the 2017 general election.

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