Women as European Commissioners – Can von der Leyen reach the fifty percent she promised?

In a tight race, Ursula von der Leyen was elected by the European Parliament to be president of the European Commission [EC] last week. One of many promises she made during her short campaign, was the pledge to bring in 50 percent women as commissioners. This is an ambitious endeavor given that women currently occupy about 30 percent of the offices. This figure is considerably higher than the average proportion of female ministers in the member states through the 2000s, where only 23.4 percent of all government members were women (own data, excluding Malta and Cyprus). The literature on politics and gender would lead us to expect the opposite pattern with lower proportions of women in the commission compared to national executives: For instance, theories highlighting the role of political opportunity structure point to the fact that women are less likely to reach political offices if only one position is available (Jalalzai 2008) and, since every country sends only one commissioner, women should stand low chances to be selected. Students of executive and legislative recruitment revealed that women have lower chances if aspirants can not declare their interest for offices independently since women are less likely to be part of the insider networks from which candidates are selected in such cases (Matland 2002). Since the EC nominations are made by governments behind closed doors, women face additional barriers to their consideration as nominees. Which factors enable women to overcome these obstacles to EC appointment and explain whether countries sent female commissioners?… Read More Women as European Commissioners – Can von der Leyen reach the fifty percent she promised?

German female and male ministers – many similarities and little differences

Most executives around the world are largely male-dominated, even though the proportion of women ministers is at an all-time high at the moment with 20.7 per cent (812 out of 3922), (IPU 2019). Some scholars argue that the low numbers follow from the fact that women need to overcome higher barriers than men to get to the top (e.g. Murray 2014, Verge and Astudillo 2019). They need to make-up for intangible masculine assets that they naturally do not possess but that are highly valued by institutional and political gatekeepers who select ministers. Based on this idea, women might have to be exceptional to overcome social, structural, and political obstacles to office. To understand this rationale in more detail, in this blogpost, I zoom into the German case to answer the question whether female ministers are better equipped for a position in government than their male colleagues?… Read More German female and male ministers – many similarities and little differences