Male domination at ECB has to end - Sharon Bowles
by Sharon Bowles
It is time to make a stand for female representation at the European Central Bank - another six years with not a single female representative at the top of one of the European Union's most important institutions is unacceptable
Today the European Parliament endorsed a negative opinion from its Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on the candidature of Yves Mersch, the current Luxembourg central bank governor who is standing for the European Central Bank's executive board to replace José Manuel González-Paramo, a Spaniard whose mandate expired in May.
There is nothing wrong with Mersch per se, but parliament has been calling on the European Council for several months now to take action to correct the total absence of women on its governing bodies and at least suggest possible female alternatives to the all-male line-up. By coincidence, the issue has come to a head in the very week that Luxembourg's European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding was hoping to get approval for new legislation to force publicly-listed companies to apply a 40 per cent female quota in their boardrooms. In the event, the proposals have been shelved until November 14, pending a re-appraisal amid strong opposition and legal concerns.
The treaty provides for the council to nominate and appoint candidates to the ECB executive board but requires the EP to be consulted - Article 283.2 TFEU. Under internal rules of procedure, if the opinion adopted by parliament is unfavourable the president shall ask the council to withdraw its nomination and to submit a new nomination to the EP. This would create a political stand-off, though legally parliament does not have the power to block a nomination.
Since the departure of Tumpel-Gugerell from the ECB in May 2011, there is no woman serving either on its executive board or on its governing council; a situation due to be perpetuated until 2018, when the next vacancy is open. That means another six years with not a single female representative at the top of one of the European Union's most important institutions.
In January this year, Liberal MEPs from the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee wrote to all 27 finance ministers to draw attention to the under-representation of women in the ECB - with the request that at least one female candidate be presented on a shortlist. A further letter was sent officially on behalf of the entire committee in May to the president of the Eurogroup, with the same request. In July, Mersch was the sole candidate nominated by the council for the vacant position.
Parliament rightly felt that the council was not taking the issue of gender balance seriously and therefore decided to use the limited powers at its disposal to take the matter further and raise its concerns publicly. But it requires those in positions of authority to actually do something about it. At the very least, the council should come up with a roadmap on how they intend to address the issue and not limit themselves to vague promises. If not, the issue will be back on the agenda when we come to finalise plans for a banking union - which also risks being run by a 'directoire' of men.
The fact that we are in the middle of an economic crisis has frequently been cited as reason for shelving the gender issue and quickly filling the vacancy at the ECB. But the ECB executive board is not unduly hampered by being one (man) down while the battle for gender equality has been ongoing for a century. Academic studies show that gender balance on company boards leads to less risk taking.
This is relevant for banking especially, and the ECB should take the lead. Indeed, they will soon be responsible for making sure banks implement a diversity policy. Parliament today has flexed its muscles on an issue that the council is trying to brush under the carpet. The sooner everyone starts taking the issue seriously rather than just paying lip service to gender equality, the sooner our public and private institutions will begin to better reflect the society we live in.
Sharon Bowles MEP is chairwoman of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in the European Parliament
Mersch appointment to ECB hits new snag
Spain has formally opposed the appointment of Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank's executive board in the latest twist to a saga that has caused a row over gender equality and the democratic legitimacy of eurozone decision-making
I hope more women in charge will decrease the short sightedness of the ECB. The financial crisis might have been signaled in an earlier stage with more women in the board. Having often responsibility for a household they know you can't afford to keep spending more than there is coming in.
Leo Maathuis - Maastricht NL