The Malta Independent 20 September 2019, Friday

Gender quotas in parliament a ‘necessary evil’ – Helena Dalli

Albert Galea Wednesday, 6 March 2019, 14:12 Last update: about 8 months ago

Gender quotas in parliament are a “necessary evil” to ensure that women are properly and adequately represented in parliament, Equality Minister Helena Dalli said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality’s International Women’s Day Conference 2019, Dalli said that while the idea of quotas has created a lot of discussion, there were studies that showed that if action is not taken in this general direction then it will be another century until women are properly represented in parliament.

In her address, Dalli said that everything had to be done to push women away from stereotypes, and show them that they are capable in any field they set out to follow. She drew an academic analogy; noting that before Physics was made an obligatory subject, very few girls used to choose it as it was not seen as being a subject befitting them as females; but since physics was made obligatory, girls have actually ended up performing better than boys on the whole.

Dalli also made reference to a protocol which was recently ratified in parliament which, while it is not legally binding, will provide a redress mechanism for cases of alleged discrimination after domestic remedies have been exhausted. The government was committing itself to be more accountable when it comes to human rights and discrimination, Dalli said.

The Equality minister also called for more transparency in how promotions are carried out and in salaries. She said that if we want to get to the bottom of the gender pay gap, then there has to be a mechanism through which an entity can compare salaries.

Also addressing the conference was the NCPE’s Commissioner, Renee Laiviera, who introduced the main subject of the conference - whether there were equal opportunities in career progression or not.

She explained that by law, one cannot give less favourable treatment in; managing work – both men and women have to be given the same opportunities of work, promotions, distributing tasks, offer training opportunities, and arranging working conditions.

Laiviera skimmed over various statistics, such as the percentage of women and men in employment, the gender pay gap, the employment impact of parenthood, and the number of women in managerial positions, which all held a similar pattern; the situation was slowly improving, but there is still a long way to go to at least reach the EU’s averages.

One such improvement was registered in the substantial spike in the employment rate of women, which has increased by a record 15.8% in the past five years.

Expanding on one of the main points of concern however, it was noted that only 29% of all managers in companies are in actual fact women, with Laiviera putting this down to various reasons such as inequalities in opportunities between men and women in career advancement.

A further concern was the gender pay gap and, more so, how this will eventually lead to a gender pensions gap; something which both Laiviera and Dalli referred to in their speeches.

Laiviera also stressed that the glass ceiling is preventing women from rising to the top jobs due to the prevailing traditional stereotypes and discrimination. She defined the glass ceiling as being an “artificial impediment and invisible barrier that militates against women’s access to top decision-making and managerial positions in an organisation whether public or private and in whatever domain.”

Also addressing the conference were senior lecturer Dr.  JosAnn Cutajar – who spoke on the meaning of the gender pay gap, its causes and how it varies between different sectors particularly in decision-making positions – and Professor Godfrey A. Pirotta – who analysed equal opportunities in the reconciliation of work and family life in relation to career advancement.

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