Justice Minister Chris Said was reported (Malta Today 9.9.2012) to have said that “Quick solutions, like the EU’s quota law, are not the best way to bring about such gender equality”. The law being proposed by EU Commissioner Viviane Reding will impose a 40% quota for female board representation on publicly-listed companies by 2020. Reding argues that despite the fact that around 60% of university graduates are female, women still represent only 14% of board members in Europe's biggest listed companies and only 3% of board presidents.
Malta, being the worst among EU member States in this regard, stands at the bottom of the ladder in spite of the fact that women have achieved up to 60% of all university graduates for nearly a decade. Malta’s largest 19 companies trading on the stock exchange are all chaired by men while only 3 out of 100 directors are women.
The Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations (MCWO) participated in a European Commission Conference in Oslo last May on Women in Economic Decision Making and presented a report on the situation of Malta and the various structural, attitudinal and cultural barriers hindering women to reach higher grades.
Moreover, the MCWO in its budget proposals has recommended that the Malta Government supports Reding’s proposal. We are indeed very surprised that instead Malta is supporting a United Kingdom diplomatic move to stop the proposal altogether.
Malta’s record in investment with regard to women’s education compares well with other EU member states. Not so in practically all the other areas. The only country without a female MEP is Malta. The lowest participation of women at parliamentary level is Malta (9%). Women Mayors make up 9%. Women Councillors have never gone above 23%. The member state with the lowest participation rate of women in the labour market is Malta (40%).
MCWO appreciates Government’s efforts to bring about a gender balance in government companies and corporations. However the top echelons of the public service are still in dire need of action. Prof Leighton’s study on “Maximizing Talent in the Malta Public Service” needs a revisit some ten years after finalisation.
There is general consensus that women are hardworking, efficient and effective at the place of work. What is bewildering is why these same women cannot be trusted to use these skills to find a work life balance and reach the highest echelons in the board room. Apparently only men with families can do this!
Quotas are already in use to increase women within political party structures. Was their introduction a quick fix? Minister Said’s reasoning does not hold water in the political context. Why should it hold water in the business sector when a growing number of studies show a link between more women in senior positions and companies’ financial performance (Commissioner Reding 19.6.12).
"At this rate, unless action is taken, it will take another 50 years before there is a reasonable balance (40 percent of each gender) on company boards," the EU Commissioner said in a 2011 press statement, (31.3.2011).
Norway’s public administration minister Rigmor Aasrud told EU Observer in an interview (31.3.2011) that "…, the voluntary system didn't function. We increased from five to six percent, it wasn't really visible. So they passed the law and companies were given two years to implement a 40 percent quota in the boards. From 2007 to 2009, they increased from six to 39.6 percent. That was very successful," she explained. France, Spain, Belgium and Rwanda have all introduced quotas. Rwanda heads the list of countries on a global level with a majority of women in parliament.
MCWO would like to know what measures are being envisaged by Minister Said to bring about gender equality in Malta and in what timeframe. How many years must Malta continue to invest hugely in its human resources while refraining from taking effective action to make the best return to strengthen its economy and increase public wealth?
Chair, Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations (MCWO)
Executive Member, European Women’s Lobby (EWL)