EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is sponsoring the gender law.
The Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations (MCWO) has joined the chorus of outrage at a decision by the Maltese government to form part of a British diplomatic push that will protest a proposed law by the European Commission, to have 40% of all publicly-listed companies' board of directors composed of women by 2020.
"We are indeed very surprised that Malta is supporting a United Kingdom diplomatic move to stop the proposal altogether," Renee Laiviera, the chair of the MCWO, said.
"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 boardroom. Apparently only men with families can do this," Laiviera said.
The MCWO chairperson said quotas were already in use within political party structures, contrasting claims by Justice Minister Chris Said that the quotas being proposed by the European Commission were only "quick-fix" solutions.
"Why should [Said's claim] 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," Laiviera said, citing the EU's justice commissioner Viviane Reding's - who is sponsoring the law - warning that without the quotas it will take 50 more years to have a reasonable gender balance on company boards.
"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?"
Malta's publicly-listed companies on the stock exchange are the EU's worst performers in gender balance, with just three women out of hundred company directors, when 60% of the island's university graduates are women.
The MCWO has recommended that Malta supports Reding's proposal, in its budget proposals.
"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 with no female MEP is Malta; the lowest participation of women at parliamentary level is Malta (9%); women mayors make up 9%; women local councillors have never gone above 23%; and it's the member state with the lowest participation rate of women in the labour market is Malta (40%)," Laiviera said.
The National Council of Women has dubbed as "shocking" news that the Maltese government will join a diplomatic push spearheaded by the United Kingdom, to oppose a law that will introduce mandatory quotas for women on public companies and private companies on the stock exchange.
Justice minister Chris Said told MaltaToday the Maltese government believes the EU should stay out of such legislation and instead allow national governments to pursue their own equality measures.
"The Government's decision to oppose the boardroom gender quotas comes as shocking news to the National Council of Women," NCW executive member Roselyn Borg said. "We urge the government to rethink its position and support the quota system. Gender balance is long overdue and opposing it is surely unacceptable."
The currently dismal representation of just 3% of women on company boards will mean a radical shake-up of Malta's largest companies' decision-making boards, affecting companies like Bank of Valletta, as well as other plcs like HSBC Malta, GO plc, International Hotel Investments, Fimbank, Lombard Bank, Farsons, Middlesea Insurance, Island Groups, and even Maltapost.