'I've Been Overlooked For A Job Twice For The Sake Of Gender Balance... And I'm Fine With It'

A male Maltese MEP candidate opens up about why positive discrimination is a necessary evil

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Maltese PN MEP candidate Peter Agius has opened up about losing not one but two jobs to female colleagues throughout his international career, saying that as much as it hurt to lose the jobs, he understood how necessary it was.

"I've been overtaken twice in my career in the European institutions for the sake of promoting female candidates. In one particular case, I was being chosen to head an important division in the European Council but a female candidate was chosen at the last minute in my stead in order to advance gender balance in the relevant unit," Dr Agius said in a statement.

His statement, released on International Women's Day, sheds light on the personal experience of losing out a job to a woman due to their gender, and comes as Malta debates the efficacy and need for the balancing policy.

Speaking to Lovin Malta, Dr Agius said that while he didn't like the idea, he understood how important gender quotas were in today's society

"Gender parity and equality are something which require ownership by men, first and foremost. There's no point discussing this with just women - most of the problem comes from the male culture," he said.

"I despise the idea of quotas - but it is clear that they are necessary, given that we remain so far away from gender balance in management posts and in politics," he continued.

Indeed, he had a bit of a sense of humour about it, recounting what he told the European Council when they broke the news to him.

"When they called me to tell me, I said: 'I love the Council, but not so radically as to consider a sex change!"

You can find Peter Agius' comment below in full

I'd like to share my personal experience in relation to Women's Day and to the importance of promoting equality and gender parity in all settings, especially at the workplace.

I've been overtaken twice in my career in the European institutions for the sake of promoting female candidates. In one particular case, I was being chosen to head an important division in the European Council but a female candidate was chosen at the last minute in my stead in order to advance gender balance in the relevant unit.

Of course, at that moment, I was disappointed, but with hindsight, one realises that a wider gender balance in management positions is for the common good. Positive discrimination measures, tough painful for all those concerned, including the females who may be perceived as being promoted for other reasons than their personal qualities, are in my view fundamental for the advancement of society as a whole.

In my career I have seen that female colleagues are definitely well prepared and skilled, having normally better soft skills than men and the leadership qualities needed to lead a team. Notwithstanding this, it is clear that in many settings, female colleagues face the infamous glass-ceiling when it comes to tapping into higher management posts.

That glass-ceiling is our own construction. Many of our workplaces still promote a culture of long hours by default, with meetings starting at 18:00 and with an expectation of a twenty-four hour availability. Notwithstanding the lip service, few organisations actually integrate family-friendly measures for top management posts. Family friendly is all too often restricted to entry grades or at most to mid-management.

Back to my personal case. It was hard to accept that one’s merit is affected by one’s gender, and yet, this is what happens to all women at the workplace since ages. Even though I lived it on my own skin, I still believe that positive discrimination measures work and are necessary to achieve a better gender balance in management posts. This is especially true in Malta where only 5% of our top managers in stock-listed companies are female and where only 9% of our MPs in Parliament are female.

The situation calls for a structural intervention. Otherwise, at this rate, it would take us a hundred years in order to reach a proper gender balance in the workplace and in democratic representation.

Dr Peter Agius is the PN candidate for the European elections, Former Head of the European Parliament Office and cabinet member of the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani

What do you think of positive discrimination in the workplace?

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Written By

Johnathan Cilia

Johnathan is interested in the weird, dark, and wonderful contradictions our late-capitalist society forces upon us. He also likes music and food. Contact him at [email protected]

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