By the end of the month – barring a physical or political earthquake –Paris will have its first Madame le Maire.

If the polls are accurate, the Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo will get the keys to the city and the 150 sq metre mayoral office at the French capital’s imposing Hôtel de Ville on the banks of the Seine.

Her centre-right rival, the former ecology minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, is far enough behind in the polls to make a comeback in the two rounds of voting this weekend and next unlikely, although not impossible.

Despite official figures showing that 80% of French women (compared with 40% in 1962) are working in 2014, and that 56% of students are female, and despite parity laws, women are far from equally represented in politics, making the Paris race something of an anomaly.

Only 27% of MPs in the Assemblée Nationale are women and only 22% of representatives in the Sénat, the upper house. The two leading parties – the Socialists and the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) – prefer to pay punitive fines than introduce quotas or field an equal number of female candidates.

But what, if anything, will it mean to have the French capital run by a woman for the first time? Parisian women seem unsure that having a female mayor will make much difference to their daily lives.

“If we were talking about a female president, now that would make a change, but we have already had women as mayors of major cities, like Martine Aubry in Lille,” said Sabine, 27, a marketing analyst.

Céline, 30, an airline worker, added: “I’m not sure having a woman mayor will actually change much for women in the city specifically, but it will be strongly symbolic, and that’s a good thing.”

Madani Cheurfa, a political analyst at CEVIPOF, a study centre on French political life, and a specialist in local elections, argues that thegender of the city mayor will make no difference.

“Before the fact that the two leading candidates are women comes the fact that they are both part of a partisan political apparatus and they are both experienced politicians,” Cheurfa told the Guardian.

Besides, says Cheurfa, any advantage to being a female candidate is cancelled out when your rival is a woman.

“Nor is it true that the two women have stressed what might be considered traditional ‘women’s issues’, like creches, child care, maternity hospitals,” Cheurfa added. “These subjects have been raised because they are general issues, like crime, like pollution… see more

source: Guardian UK