To quota or not to quota
Viviane Reding is not a woman to mince her words! The European Commissioner for Justice discussed her proposal for mandatory gender quotas in company boardrooms expressing her disappointment at the poor take-up of women directors at company board level.
The EU has long been stressing the need to use both men’s and women’s skills in these difficult economic times in order to render Europe more competitive. A number of countries have already established such quotas for women on boards, however, the proposal for such an introduction in Malta seems to have been met with a degree of resistance.
Various stakeholders have come forward expressing their concern, conveniently saying that such quotas could backfire or even quoting Malta’s traditional gender roles. Personally, I think that these are mere excuses designed to delay a much-needed change in culture.
With an impressive number of female University graduates making the notch every year, I see no reason why quotas should not be introduced to help women break this glass ceiling once and for all. Quotas, albeit temporary, will go a long way towards ensuring the acceptance of this much-needed female participation in senior positions and at decision-making levels.
I tend to disagree with those who say that women should be promoted on their own merit only and that appointments by quota might backfire. The truth of the matter is that studies have shown that companies perform better with women in senior positions. However, the “old boys’ network” is still a reality, which women struggle to overcome. Success or failure in the position has nothing to do with the quota because both males and females, irrelevant of how they are appointed, can excel or make a mess of it!
The situation in Maltese politics is not much rosier. Statistics released by the European Commission for 2012 show that, compared to the 24.2 per cent of women members of Parliament in the EU, Malta rates at a very low 8.7 per cent female representation in Parliament. This when the figure for male members in the Maltese Parliament stands at 91.3 per cent compared to the 75.8 per cent for the EU parliaments.
With the next election just a few months away, this is an appeal to the political parties and to all the electorate to try and rectify this very sad situation in our highest institution. I have no doubt that the two major political parties will be doing their utmost to present valid male and female candidates on their tickets.
Unfortunately, our track record in voting for female candidates in elections proves that there still exists a degree of reluctance to vote for a female. This is not only disappointing but also worrying because, more than ever, we need a higher female representation in Parliament to address issues concerning employment and the woman, work and family balance, support systems to ensure stronger families, women’s and children’s sexual health, education and others.
In an article I had penned for this newspaper last January 31, titled Sisters In The Hustings, I emphasised that “My appeal is not a simple gender-based one and I would not wish for you to vote for female candidates simply because of their gender. However, if a female candidate has the right qualities to fight for what you believe in, if she displays courage, maturity and determination and can use her skills to the benefit of her party and the nation, then why the reluctance to vote for a woman?”
Female participation in Maltese politics still stands at a low and women have a long way to go to reach some form of equality in this field. It is a fact and a reality that women have to work significantly harder than their male counterparts to gain and maintain trust from their electorate.
On the positive side, it seems that voters prefer opening up to a female and find that women as natural carers display more empathy and are better listeners.
Are we in time to introduce quotas for female candidates standing for election? I doubt it! Although a number of discussions have been held with a view to increasing female participation, it seems that, once again, the issue of quotas has met with a degree of resistance. I believe this is unfortunate because this may be the only way to break through yet another glass ceiling.
With a general election round the corner, I augur that the Nationalist and Labour parties are striving to field as many female candidates as possible to ensure that a decent percentage of the overall team is made up of females. As things stand, only in this way can we ensure to increase the percentage chance of more females being elected to Parliament.
The author is Nationalist Party electoral candidate for on the fourth district.