Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

Interview

Diversity: EU commission 'doesn't look like Europe'

  • Georgieva (l) with EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and his male secretary-general, male chief spokesperson, and male head of cabinet (Photo: European Commission)

Kristalina Georgieva still has quite a road to travel to meet her boss's required target on gender equality.

But the European commissioner in charge of human resources said the commission has made “very good progress” towards Jean-Claude Juncker's goal of achieving a 40 percent share of female representation in the institution's senior management.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Georgieva: 'Gender is good economics' (Photo: European Commission)

When the current commission started its work in November 2014, there were six female directors-general in the EU's administration. As of Wednesday (16 March), there will be eight. Women will then represent 22 percent of the directors-general, the level of management below commissioner.

“Most importantly”, there will now be 12 female deputy directors-general - 29 percent, the commissioner told EUobserver in an interview in her office in Strasbourg during the last European Parliament plenary session.

“I'm very proud that we have quadrupled this number from three to 12,” said Georgieva, adding that the deputies may become directors-general in the future.

“It was not so difficult to do, because there are so many wonderful, talented, competent women in the commission at the level of directors, and at the level of heads of units.”

The progress however cannot mask the fact that there is still a great gender imbalance in EU institutions.

In the EU Council, which represents national governments, 24 percent of its senior management is female - already an improvement compared with 2006, when that figure was at 16 percent.

The European Parliament increased its share of political members slightly, from 35.8 percent to 37 percent in the 2014 elections, but at the management level the female representation is smaller.

A third of the directors-general in the European Parliament are female, and only 29.2 percent of the directors, which is below a 2009 target set by parliament 10 years ago.

At the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), only one in four senior managers are female.

That is not because women are not interested in working in Brussels. On the contrary, at the EESC 62.5 percent of the staff are women.

One of the reasons is that women need more encouragement to apply for managerial positions, said Georgieva, who under the previous commission (2010-2014) held the post of humanitarian aid commissioner.

“Say you have a job in which there are six criteria, and you have two candidates. One is a man, one is a woman. They both meet three of the criteria,” she said.

“The man says: hey, I meet half of the criteria, plus I bring my wonderful self to this job. The woman says: well, I only meet three criteria, maybe this is not the job for me.”

The commissioner added that a woman would not receive a promotion for just being female.

“If you had a situation in which we have two candidates, a man and a woman, and the man is the better candidate, of course we would give the man the job,” she said.

“But if they are equal, all other things equal, at this point of time we would give preference to the woman.”

Good economics

However, the Bulgarian politician stressed that diversity was “not about percentages”.

“It is about making organisations more productive, more effective,” she said.

“The evidence is unquestionable: countries, companies, organisations that are more diverse and where women play their fair share across the ranks, are more effective, more productive. Gender is good economics.”

The commissioner, who also has the EU budget and budgetary control in her portfolio, added that a more equal gender balance also improves the commission's ability to take decisions.

“You have different perspectives. They are equally valuable, but of course you enhance your decision-making process,” she noted.

Georgieva added when she first presented the 40 percent mandatory target, many male directors-general said discussions in a more gender-balanced room were "more inclusive" and "more sensitive to different points of view".

Setting the example

There is another reason why Georgieva believes the top management of the EU's executive body should have a more balanced gender composition.

“We have a responsibility in the commission to lead in Europe,” she said.

“We promote gender equality among member states. We have to set an example.”

The current college of 28 EU commissioners is still a largely male affair. It consists of nine women and 19 men - 32 percent of the commissioners are female.

The commission itself cannot be blamed for that - commissioners are put forward by member states, and a majority of them ignored the 2014 call from commissioner president Jean-Claude Juncker to send women to Brussels.

But what the commissioners can influence themselves, is the composition of their cabinets. Georgieva pointed out that 42 percent of heads of cabinet and their deputies are now women - Georgieva herself has a female head of cabinet.

Despite her argument that more gender balance is good for the decision-making process, Georgieva told this website she could not think of a moment in the college of commissioner's weekly meeting where she had wished for a larger share of female voices.

“I'm running through my brain yesterday's discussion, yesterday's college, and there were more women that took the floor than men,” said Georgieva at Wednesday's (9 March) interview.

“That doesn't mean that this is how it is every time, but we certainly have very active women.”

'We don't look like London'

And what about role models in other areas of diversity?

Georgieva could not think of one commissioner, in the current administration or the previous one, who was openly gay. That would make Peter Mandelson (2004-2008) not only the first, but so far the only openly gay EU commissioner.

And while the college of commissioners is now 32 percent female, it is still 100 percent white.

“Indeed, not only the college: you walk the corridors of the commission: we don't look like Amsterdam, or London, or The Hague, or Paris,” said Georgieva.

“For fairness, we have some of our member states where diversity is much more limited, especially the new member states, in terms of ethnic diversity, or even religious diversity. But … we don't look like Europe. This is something we have to actively address.”

However, she added promoting diversity was “not easy” because the commission was currently a “shrinking organisation” - by the end of 2017 it has to have cut staff by five percent.

Feature

British EU officials in limbo if UK leaves

Directors likely to get golden handshakes. Managers and MEPs to be lame ducks. Pensions safe. But if UK exit talks turned ugly, British officials could suffer.

EU prepares to let commissioner go to UN

EU budget commissioner Kristalina Georgieva is increasingly emerging as Europe's top candidate for the prestigious UN secretary general post.

EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

EU institutions want Facebook to relax its rules, to allow pan-European political groups to carry out EU-wide campaigns. Facebook has yet to implement the demands - posing questions on the extent to which Europe relies on the US tech firm.

News in Brief

  1. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions
  2. Romania adopts new rules weakening corruption fight
  3. Sturgeon pledges 2nd Scottish independence referendum
  4. Political deadlock looms at Sunday's Spanish election
  5. Le Pen in Copenhagen for talks with new key ally
  6. Trump to meet May and Macron on Europe visit in June
  7. Johnson's sister to run in EU elections on new list
  8. Weber pledges to 'block' Nord Stream 2 as president

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  2. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  3. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  4. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  5. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  6. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  7. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  8. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us