Women in the Commission

Some interesting stats have come my way relating to women in policy grades and management positions in the European Commission. I find them particularly interesting because they start the first year I joined.

The first table refers to all policy grades.

Women in policy grades in the EC

When I joined 23.9% of policy grade post-holders were women and now 41.6% are. So that’s a clear improvement. It’ll be interesting to see if the introduction of the new format entrance exams affects those figures in the future.

Next table is women in middle management, that is heads of section, deputy heads of unit and heads of unit. I’m not sure whether my current position as head of sector in a rep counts as a middle management job, but this is the kind of job I would expect to have when I leave London in a few year’s time.

Women in middle management in the EC

This shows that women are under-represented at middle management in the Commission. This is of course logical, as the figure for women in middle management in 2010 is broadly the same as the figure for all policy grade women in 1995. As it takes about 10-15 years to work your way up to those grades, that makes sense (at least on one level). Will that trend continue? Will it take to 2025 to see 40% of middle management posts occupied by women?

The final graph is women at senior management level, that is Director, Deputy Director-General, Director-General.

Women in senior management posts in EC

Here growth has been steeper, aside from the drop in 2004, which is probably due to new senior level posts and occupants from the new entrant countries (I don’t know whether they have a better or worse record on equality, though the figures suggest “worse” at least at senior level). While 22% certainly looks a lot better than 4%, it still means that 78% of jobs are going to men.

Clearly the overall situation has improved. But there is still a way to go for young women in policy grades to feel that they have role models in the upper echelons. The Commission has undoubtedly sought to introduce policies that allow a better reconciliation of work and family life (flexi- and tele-working, discouraging late evening meetings etc) but I still have the feeling that this is only dealing with some of the problem. Work/life balance affects women, certainly, but men have children too, and also have a lot to gain from family-friendly HR policies. And not all women have children. Encouraging women to apply for senior positions, and having a system in place that recognises a variety of experience and approach (rather than having a specific-shaped peg in mind) are both important as well.

I’m sure there are more profound things to say about these figures, and I’d like to hear them.

2 Comments

Filed under Management, Personal

2 responses to “Women in the Commission

  1. 10-15 years to get to middle management positions? That sounds like an awful long time. Don’t people loose their motivation along the way?
    Thanks for the interesting stats, and also for mentioning that there are women (and men) who don’t have children. I think the discussion on work/life balance has to get away from the work/family balance frame because people who don’t have family then feel there’s no excuse for them not to work more… It’s about having a personal life aside of work. Fine if you want to spend it building a family, but also fine if you want to spend it doing NGO work for example. It’s all good for society in the end and should be treated with the same respect.

    • antonia

      Managerially the Commission isn’t a pyramid, but the shape of a house drawn by a child, so heads of unit have management responsibility for everyone beneath them. To be honest, I think a lot of people, other than the most ambitious, quite like spending the first bit of their career just doing the content rather than getting involved in all the administration and management side of things. It has certainly never been a demotivating factor for me.

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