Maltese women remain under-represented on decision-making boards

Women remain under-represented on government boards and corporations, and Malta’s listed companies and PLCs are in the majority boy’s clubs

Women make policy, not coffee.. an activist at a feminist rally in 2017 in Valletta sends a clear message
Women make policy, not coffee.. an activist at a feminist rally in 2017 in Valletta sends a clear message

Despite signs of improvement in the EU’s gender equality index, Maltese women are still in a very small minority on the boards of directors of both public and private entities.

Around this time last year – just ahead of Women’s Day – equality minister Helena Dalli praised the Prime Minister’s proposal to introduce a gender quota system for MPs. “Whenever the topic of gender quotas is brought up in Malta, it always stirs a lot of debate,” she said. “However, Muscat knew that if we don’t have action, then a lot of time will have to pass before we have a Parliament that is truly representative of our society.”

But while the percentage of female MPs has risen from 8.7% in 2011 to 14.5% last year, Malta’s numbers remain abysmally low, particularly when compared to the EU average.

Indeed, the current administration is yet to deliver on its promise to be the “most feminist government,” as measures have done little to improve gender representation on government boards.

Gender quotas around Europe have not been implemented long enough for the results to be weighed. But political representation aside, from information compiled by MaltaToday, it appears that only about 32.4% of members of public boards are women.

These are government entities where chairpersons and board members are hand-picked by government ministers.

This number is inflated by a small selection of female-dominated boards, which are exactly the type one would expect: the adoption appeals board, the coordinating board for cultural projects, and the social work profession board. Curiously, the prison leave board is also made up entirely of two female members.

On the other hand, the board of directors of Enemalta, the national energy company, is comprised of 85.7% men and 14.3% women, while national airline Air Malta has a board made up of 30% women. Only 25% of members on the Public Broadcasting Services directors board are women, and the number of women on the editorial board is nil.

The private sector is faring significantly worse.

The only company listed on the Stock Exchange with a female majority board of directors is Tigné Mall, the company that runs the retail complex at Tigné Point. But Tigné Point’s nine board directors are all men.

In fact the number of women on the boards of directors of listed companies are staggeringly low, accounting for only 8.5%. The majority of the companies – which include Lombard Bank, MaltaPost, Midi, Malta Investments, and GO – have a board of directors made up entirely of men.

In the EU Gender Equality Index 2017, Malta scored the most significant progress out of all participating countries with a point increase of 17.5, in the main down to women’s access to economic independence and the increase in female labour participation.

But while the majority of EU member states improved their scores in the domain of power, Malta actually regressed by 0.4 points in gender equality in decision-making positions across political, economic, and social spheres in the same report.

And despite females accounting for 60% of University of Malta graduates and a significant increase of women in the labour market, the meagre number of women in positions of power does not reflect the increase of women in the workforce.