In a move to bring more gender balance to EU institutions, the European Commissioner in charge of budget and human resources, Kristalina Georgieva, promised to boost the number of women in top positions to 40% by the end of her mandate.
“I can assure you we will get there, you can trust me,” she told EURACTIV, adding that her task was to increase the number of women in higher positions from the current 27.5% to 40% by the end of the Juncker Commission’s term.
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, Georgieva said.
The Bulgarian Commissioner has made gender equality one of the priorities of her five year mandate.
“Every society must use the potential of both genders. It is not about feminism, but productivity – it is about reaching greatest investment returns,” she said.
According to latest figures, in 2014, EU institutions had 14 women and 82 men in level 1 administrators positions (15% against 85%) and 106 against 234 at level 2 administrators (31% against 69%). These numbers compare unfavourably with national administrations, which have 31% of women and 69% of men in level 1 administrators and 40% – 60% in level 2 positions.
Although around half of all employees are female and approximately 60 % of new university graduates in the EU are female, women remain seriously underrepresented in decision-making positions, as well as industry and public service.
“It is about time that the Commission and the European institutions in general practice what they preach,” said Serap Altinisik from the European Women’s Lobby, welcoming Georgieva’s initiative.
In November 2012, the European Commission tabled a draft directive requiring that publicly listed companies in Europe have at least 40% females in non-executive board positions by 2020. But the bill has been blocked by a number of countries, such as Germany and the UK.
Cracking the glass ceiling
On average, only 20.2% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU are women. This marks a significant increase from 11.9% in 2010 when the European Commission first put the issue of women in leadership positions high on the political agenda. However, there is still a very long way to go, experts concur.
A new momentum seems on the horizon though, with Germany having decided to adopt new legislation to boost the number of women on supervisory boards to 30%, said Altinisik.
Commissioner V?ra Jourová, in charge of gender equality in the Juncker Commission, said in the European Parliament last week that she is very determined to move the dossier forward and will engage in bilateral talks with those countries opposing the directive.
Not taking advantage of the skills of highly qualified women constitutes a waste of talent and a loss of economic growth potential, the Commissioner said. Various studies suggest that companies with a higher representation of women at the most senior levels deliver better organisational and financial performance.
This is also true for public administrations, including EU institutions. Where Juncker failed to have more women Commissioners, Georgieva might succeed in turning the EU executive into a model for the rest of Europe.