The Senate is expected to vote on the measure, which was presented in the lower house by the ruling centre-right UMP party, in the next few months. The government signalled that it would support the bill, making it almost certain to pass into law once the upper house has approved it.
France has some women in senior economic positions including Anne Lauvergeon, who is chief executive of nuclear fuel, reactors and waste recycling group Areva, and economy minister Christine Lagarde.
Overall, female representation at boardroom level is low. According to the bill’s text, women make up only 10 per cent of the board members of companies on the blue chip CAC 40 index and eight per cent of the boards of the top 500 French firms.