One of the issues Günther Oettinger is expected to be quizzed on in the European Parliament today (9 January) is his plan to achieve gender balance in the European Commission, as progress achieved under his predecessor Kristalina Georgieva looks limited.
Oettinger, who has been embroiled in numerous scandals, was nominated by Juncker to take over the portfolios of Budget and Human Resources from his Bulgarian colleague Kristalina Georgieva, who left for a position at the World Bank, which began on 1 January.
Last October, Oettinger was caught on camera at an event in Hamburg, mocking Chinese people, gay marriage and women in senior positions.
In particular, Oettinger suggested that women cannot accede to leadership positions on merit, saying that in a delegation from China, where no women quotas exist, there were only men.
Oettinger will leave his job as the EU’s Digital Economy and Society chief and take Georgieva’s two portfolios, although it is not clear if he will also inherit from her the title of Commission Vice-President.
The Commissioner will be questioned in three European Parliament committees before taking on the new role, but his promotion won’t be subject to a binding approval by vote in a plenary session of the entire Parliament.
NGOs have called on the European Parliament to oppose the attribution of the human resources portfolio to Oettinger, because of racist, sexist and homophobic remarks he made on several occasions.
MEPs are expected to ask Oettinger about his plan to attain 40% female representation in senior and middle management positions in the Commission by 2019.
Georgieva said one year ago she will push for the 40% target, which is set in the Communication on The Working Methods of the European Commission 2014 – 2019 (C(2014) 9004), of 11 November 2014.
When Georgieva announced her goal, the percentage of women in middle and senior managerial positions in the Commission was 27.5%. The positions concerned are those of 450 officials at the level of Director-Generals and Directors and 1200 at the level of heads of unit.
The positions concerned are those of 450 officials at the level of Director-Generals and Directors and 1200 at the level of heads of unit.
At the time she left (1 January 2017), however, female representation reached 31% for senior managers and 34% for middle managers in the Commission, according to data obtained by EURACTIV from the EU executive.
Across the EU, women are underrepresented in decision-making positions, particularly in politics and business, even if the situation varies between EU countries. In November 2014, women accounted for 28% of members of the single or lower houses of parliaments in the EU countries.
In business leadership, the situation is especially disappointing. In October 2014, women accounted for just 20.2% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies registered in the EU.
For the European Commission, it will be increasingly difficult to call for gender balance in the private sector, if it doesn’t put its own house in order.