After the success of the PWI 21st Anniversary and being inspired by the speech of Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director for Equality, at the European Commission’s Directorate –General for Justice, we were privileged to obtain an interview to learn more about the status of the Directive proposal for ‘gender balance’ in companies.
Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Romanian born, has been appointed Director for Equality in the European’s Commission’s Directorate General (DG) for Justice in 2011, after serving for several years as the Director for Fundamental rights and Union citizenship, in the same DG Justice. He is a lawyer by training and holds a L.L.M from University of Illinois (US) and a PhD from the University of Bucharest (Romania). He speaks fluently French among other languages and is an avid reader of Jean Jacques Rousseau in its original text. This philosopher was an influential founding element in the beginning of Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea’s career when he read the declaration of Human Rights and discovered a passion for protecting and serving the rights of every individual.
Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea, what is the current status of the DG Justice proposal on ‘gender balance’?
Responding with a delighted smile, Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea and his team were very proud, because the proposal had been adopted on November 14, 2012 by a consensus vote at the European Commission. Because of this outcome, votes were not needed to decide on this proposal. The next step is that this proposal has now to be endorsed by two EU bodies: the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. At the end of this process, each of these two institutions have to approve a version of the proposal, which will ultimately become an EU Directive and will then be applied by all Member States. Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea is confident that there will be a positive attitude in these two institutions leading to a rapid approval in order to create a general agreement amongst the Member States. A good sign of the general opinion consensus on this Proposal was that the main political groups in the European Parliament have issued a joint statement on the same day as the Proposal was adopted at the DG Justice.
“This Proposal is not only focused on women, but on ‘under-represented sex’…”
Furthermore, Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea is confident that the proposal is acceptable by the majority of the Member States as it overcomes some of their potential major worries, “this Proposal is not only focused on women, but on the ‘under-represented sex’ giving priority to the skills and competences of the candidate”. He further explains that when there are two equal candidates for a position, after a selection process which is based on skills and competences, the equally qualified female candidate should be chosen under the principle that women are under-represented in company boards. If it would be for a position where men are under-represented, then the man applying and selected as a potential candidate, should be preferred. This is bringing transparency and objective criteria in the selection process for an executive and that is what more than anything else will drive the change. In addition, the proposal is respecting the principle of subsidiarity of the Member States. Therefore, this proposal shall not be seen as a rigid and blind quota, imposing women, but really as a transparent proposal, aiming at helping the under-represented sex to achieve their professional ambitions when it has the necessary qualifications and skills.
“this is not a proposal that aims at bringing token equality…”
Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea, how can we ensure that companies will take this proposal seriously?
Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea insisted that, “this is not a proposal that aims at bringing token equality, but effective equality in real life.” He further explains that not only the companies in the Member States will have to define their ways to comply with the quantitative objective quotas and the percentage of women achieving Board executive positions as a target, but that they will also have to set up transparent systems to report and to lead to these objectives. Each Member State will be free to set up and choose their solutions for reaching the objective including for the sanctions applicable in cases of non-compliance, which will fit to the particularities of their national systems. People have to be aware that this is NOT a soft proposal and that it will come with accompanied measures to track the progress made by the Member States and the companies.
“Every Euro invested in gender equality policies at the level of the company brings
more than one euro back to the company that is making the investment.”
The European Commission will not be only be monitoring the success and implementation of the Proposal, but there will be actions put in place to encourage the companies to participate and to convince them that ‘gender equality’ is worth to invest. “Every Euro invested in gender equality policies at the level of the company brings more than one euro back to the company that is making the investment,” explains Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea. For example, the “Equality pays off” Program, will be initiated at the beginning of next year. This program will encourage companies to communicate to each other, share best practices and learn from each other on how they implemented the ‘gender equality’. With this vital information, these companies will achieve great value of what benefit they got from applying ‘gender equality’. These types of initiatives are meant to avoid counter effect of the proposal, and will go beyond all the studies that have been done prior. Each project proposed by the Commission has to be accompanied by an Impact study which asses the economic, social, environmental consequences of its project/proposal. In addition, the Commission looks at all the published and available studies.
As our interview came to closure, our interlocutor confidently acknowledged that with this proposal being adopted in the near future, gender diversity, will find its ‘balance’.
Thank you, Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea for this enlightening meeting.