Address gender pay gap, but not with female quotas say MEPs

Gender issues in politics, business and society were on the agenda at a youth-led debate which highlighted the need for more support and enforcement of laws which ensure equal pay for men and women

Speakers agreed quotas were not the answer to everything
Speakers agreed quotas were not the answer to everything

MEPs Roberta Metsola and Marlene Mizzi have highlighted the need for more support and increased enforcement of laws which ensure equal pay for men and women. 

The two MEPs were among a number of speakers, including Nationalist MP Kristy Debono, as well as Asma Dekna, co-founder of LIBICO and Renee Laiviera, the Commissioner and Acting executive director of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, who shared their opinions on gender issues in politics, business and society at a youth-led debate.

“What concerns me is the same pay for the same job,” said Mizzi, a Labour MEP, arguing that it should be illegal to pay less for same work. “It is immoral for an employer to pay women less than men for the same work.” Legislation should be enforced, she said.

Laiviera added that the gender pay gap was contributing to a future gender pension gap. “Segregation starts from segregation in education. Less women take on science and technology courses… society must work harder on tackling stereotypes and giving career guidance.”

One of the topics discussed was whether gender quotas could fix imbalance in female participation in various sectors. 

In Malta, currently only 14.5% of MPs are women, Metsola said, pointing out that since being given the vote in 1947, only 80 women have been candidates. “We still have a long way to go but the fact that we are here discussing it is a good sign,” she said.

The general sentiment was that quotas are, at best, a short-term necessary evil. Metsola disagrees with quotas in politics entirely, calling instead for more female candidates to be fielded. “I was elected because I convinced a number of people who felt they could vote for me... irrespective of any pushes to the contrary. I would disagree with a quota in favour of women instead of men who got more votes. I would distinguish between women getting elected and the number of candidates.” 

This feeling was shared by Mizzi, who said it is “rather offensive” to women who have achieved positions through merit, only to be sneered at behind their backs and be told that they’re only there because of the quotas. “People dislike being token gender quota fillers,” she said. Her party is however considering such quotas to boost female representation in the House.

Dekna however said they were necessary in the political sphere in order to create a generation of women in politics. “But what needs to be tackled is the number of relatable female candidates in politics,” she said, adding that more role models were needed.

“Quotas alone do not work, they must be accompanied by structural changes,” added Laiviera.

And Kristy Debono warned that it would be “risky” to impose quotas to elect more women. “When the women elected, come to terms with the reality of political life, it might be too late… Politics is a round-the-clock commitment. I would facilitate the making easier the juggling of family and work commitments, but I would not shove quotas down people’s throats.”

Asked whether their gender had impeded their professional career, the panel gave mixed reactions.

“Our culture, although changing rapidly has not year reached equality in expectations,” Debono said. “Having said that, we have made massive inroads. The electorate do vote for women,” she said, pointing to the number of Maltese female MEPs.

“Once you become a parent the challenges grow exponentially,” she warned. “No matter how good a support system you have as a politician, you have to dedicate time to your constituents, to your clients, to your family.”

Marlene Mizzi said ability was the most important factor. “I was never made to feel inferior. Sometimes I believe that you allow yourself to feel inferior. Excelling at your work attracts respect…

“However, I’m very much aware that women face challenges. Up here,” she said, pointing to her head, “there’s no gender. Challenges come from society, from culture who tends to treat woman was less important than men and from family.”

More in National