Women face ‘century of inequality’ without positive discrimination, says PN candidate

PN candidate Peter Agius says he was twice overtaken in EU career by women promoted to advance gender balance: ‘Positive discrimination, though painful, is fundamental’

PN candidate Peter Agius was formerly head of the European Parliament office in Malta
PN candidate Peter Agius was formerly head of the European Parliament office in Malta

The Nationalist candidate Peter Agius has called for a structural intervention to address gender imbalances in high management posts, or face “a hundred years” more to reach a proper gender balance.

Agius, a civil servant of the EU institutions and spokesperson to EP president Antonio Tajani, admitted having been disappointed at being overtaken twice in his career “for the sake of promoting female candidates.”

In one case, he said he had been chosen to head an important division in the European Council but a female candidate was chosen at the last minute in his stead in order to advance gender balance in the relevant unit.

“Of course, at that moment, I was disappointed, but with hindsight, one realises that a wider gender balance in management positions is for the common good.

“Positive discrimination measures, though painful for all those concerned, including the females who may be perceived as being promoted for other reasons than their personal qualities, are in my view fundamental for the advancement of society as a whole… It was hard to accept that one’s merit is affected by one’s gender, and yet, this is what happens to all women at the workplace since ages.”

Agius said he had seen female colleagues who were definitely well prepared and skilled, with better soft skills than men and the leadership qualities needed to lead a team.

“Notwithstanding this, it is clear that in many settings, female colleagues face the infamous glass-ceiling when it comes to tapping into higher management posts. That glass-ceiling is our own construction. Many of our workplaces still promote a culture of long hours by default, with meetings starting at 6pm and with an expectation of a 24-hour availability.

“Notwithstanding the lip service, few organisations actually integrate family-friendly measures for top management posts. Family-friendly is all too often restricted to entry grades or at most to mid-management.”

Agius said positive discrimination measures worked and were necessary to achieve a better gender balance in management posts. “This is especially true in Malta where only 5% of our top managers in stock-listed companies are female and where only 9% of our MPs in Parliament are female. The situation calls for a structural intervention. Otherwise, at this rate, it would take us a hundred years in order to reach a proper gender balance in the workplace and in democratic representation.”

The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani wrote a letter to the Council and the Commission earlier this week, over concern about the gender imbalance in appointments to EU top positions.

The European Commission and the Council shortlisted only men for the most recent nominations for top positions in EU financial authorities, the EBA, the SRB, and the ECB, despite earlier appeals by the European Parliament for more gender balance.

The Conference of Presidents decided today to postpone the votes on the new appointments for the SRB and ECB on the basis of a Green initiative if Parliament does not receive a satisfactory reply to its letter to the Council and Commission before next week. There will be a plenary debate next Tuesday with a resolution on gender balance in EU economic and monetary institutions. Only the vote for the appointment of the EBA President will take place as planned, otherwise the one-month non-objection period for the European Parliament would simply expire.

German MEP Sven Giegold said that the postponement of the two appointments was a first signal against male dominance in the EU financial authorities. “​In the EU financial authorities it is Men's Day 365 days a year. The EU Commission and the Council must now ensure more equality in these top positions. By postponing the vote, we have achieved a first success for more equality in these top jobs. The Council and the Commission must create genuine gender equality for future appointment procedures. If they do not deliver, we will continue to block the votes on the two appointments beyond the second plenary week in March."

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