The European Commission’s budget and human resources chief said Wednesday she would order a “freeze” on the hiring of men in the institution unless some of its departments gave more top jobs to women.
Kristalina Georgieva, a Commission vice president who is sometimes referred to as the EU executive body’s chief operating officer, has sought to increase the number of women in senior positions in the institution to 40 percent by 2019. But after a meeting of commissioners Wednesday at which she presented a report on progress toward that goal, she said more needed to be done.
“My determination is that if it is necessary, I will freeze appointments,” Georgieva told POLITICO. “Some departments have to reach their targets, and if they don’t, sanctions are coming.”
Georgieva said that currently about 30 percent of Commission senior managers and 33 percent of middle managers are women. She said that many Commission departments, including for communication, home affairs, justice, research and innovation, had hit the 40 percent target. However, the Commission is far behind its targets in several powerful departments, including competition, environment, single market and the EU’s anti-fraud office.
Of the 41 directors-general — the highest rank in the Commission bar the commissioners themselves — 10 are now women. Four new top Commission officials have recently been appointed, including Charlina Vitcheva to the Commission’s Joint Research Center, and Ruxandra Draghia-Akli to research and innovation, both at deputy director-general level.
Of 44 top appointments under the current Commission, 18 of them (41 percent) were women, but Georgieva said that was achieved only after the application period for a quarter of vacancies was extended due to a lack of women applying.
To meet the 40 percent goal by the end of 2019, Georgieva has been concentrating her efforts on heads of unit, the middle-management positions described on the Commission’s website as “the backbone” of the institution.
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The European Commission has 1,125 heads of unit, of which less than a third — 368 — are women. In the past two years, however, 16 women joined the ranks of heads of unit, according to figures released by Georgieva’s office in March.
Between November 2014 and May 2016, of a total of 115 internal appointments at middle management level, 49 concerned women.
Georgieva told POLITICO in May that women in middle-management positions often struggled to move up the ladder, and the Commission needed to “work from the bottom (up).”
“We have to seek more women to step into the pipeline, to get more women up,” she said. “You make better decisions when you have a more diverse working place.”
Gender equality has been an issue for the Commission since Jean-Claude Juncker began assembling his team of commissioners. He pleaded with member countries to put forward women for the roles, but few of them did.
Juncker’s team has nine women out of 28 members (from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden).
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the titles of Commission officials and to remove an incorrect reference to gender balance in José Manuel Barroso’s Commission.