European Central Bank

ECB pledges more women managers after row over board appointment

Promise follows row over appointment of male central banker to its executive board

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 3:50am

The European Central Bank plans to double the share of women in management roles, after a political spat last year over gender diversity almost scuppered the appointment of Yves Mersch to its executive board.

"By the end of 2019, 35 per cent of middle management positions and 28 per cent of senior management positions should be held by women," the Frankfurt-based ECB said on Thursday.

"In order to reach the gender targets, the ECB is implementing a gender diversity action plan."

Only two women, Sirkka Haemaelaeinen of Finland and Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell of Austria, have ever sat on the ECB's six-strong board, and at present only 14 per cent of senior managers are female. That imbalance prompted European Parliament lawmakers to refuse to approve Mersch's appointment to the board last year, leaving the central bank's top management panel understaffed for more than six months. Mersch is chairman of Luxembourg's central bank.

"This is better than nothing," said Sharon Bowles, the chairwoman of the parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, who led protests over Mersch's appointment last year. "There is however something wrong in the ECB because even the rate of promotion of women is much lower than that of the men. These targets represent quite slow progress."

All 17 central bank governors in the euro area are men, as are all the current members of the ECB's board. The ECB added a woman senior official in October when it hired Christine Claire Graeff as director general for communications and language services. Graeff and director general of payments and markets infrastructure Daniela Russo are the only two women at the top level of management below the board.

The rate of promotion of women is much lower than … men [in the ECB]

The ECB is following the example of Mark Carney, Bank of England governor since July 1, who put pressure on the British government this month to appoint more women to the bank's rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee. Carney, the former Bank of Canada governor, told the BBC on August 8 that the absence of women on the committee since mid-2010 was "striking".

Since Britain's central bank was granted operational independence from government in 1997, only four of the 33 people who have served on the committee have been women.

ECB president Mario Draghi acknowledged the lack of female managers even before he took office, calling it a "very important general problem" in a European Parliament hearing in June 2011. Still, last year he denied that women were being deliberately held back. "There isn't any gender discrimination in the ECB," he said in October.