Emmanuel Macron faced accusations of overlooking women for top jobs after it emerged that the leaders of a campaign group supporting his re-election were almost all male.
The complaints follow separate gripes that the vast majority of his aides at the Elysée palace are men, despite public pledges to increase female representation in politics.
Ensemble Citoyens! (Together Citizens!), an umbrella grouping bringing together different pro-Macron parties or movements, was due to be officially launched on Monday evening at a meeting in Paris.
In an attempt to widen Mr Macron’s appeal ahead of presidential and legislative elections next year, it will include centrists, a few social democrats, conservatives, and others.
However, members of the group were reportedly unhappy about its dire lack of gender parity.
According to Le Parisien, they voiced their displeasure after a working dinner gathering the heads of different factions that included 11 men and one woman. When the news filtered back to Mr Macron, he was reportedly “very annoyed”.
“It’s terrible for the image of the ruling majority,” one of his aides told the paper.
'The glass ceiling has got thicker'
After Mr Macron’s shock election in 2017, in which he siphoned votes from the Left and Right, his fledgling party, La République en Marche, or The Republic on the Move (LREM), went on to win a landslide majority in parliament.
In a much-lauded move, Mr Macron insisted that half of the candidates must be women and half from civil society.
However, almost none have reached the upper echelons of the party.
“True, LREM has 47 per cent women in the National Assembly,” said Valérie Petit, the Nord MP who left the party last year. But she added: “Women are present but they are not promoted. The glass ceiling has got thicker.”
Sandrine Josso, another former LREM MP, said: “We are there thanks to President Macron who, in 2017, wanted women to enter parliament in large numbers. But it’s just an illusion because wherever decisions need to be made, they are often absent from discussions.”
The lack of women at the top of Macron support groups mirrors a lack of gender parity at the Elysée. “There are only a few women in the president’s entourage in an office that is too masculine,” a member of his entourage confessed.
As a result, around 40 women will next month launch their own pressure group called Simone, after the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir.
Aware of the criticisms, the new movement’s organisers reportedly scrambled to ensure women would take to the “stage to ensure gender parity” during its launch - at least for the family photo.
Mr Macron’s once-powerful LREM party has been gradually weakened by the departure of numerous MPs to other parliamentary groups, with many disillusioned at simply rubber-stamping decisions made by the head of state in a country where the president calls all the shots when he has a parliamentary majority.
The French president, who is currently polling to be re-elected next April, is reportedly worried about failing to go on to secure a parliamentary majority, forcing him to share power in what the French call “cohabitation” with a rival party and prime minister.