Having taken part in a recent panel discussing female Directors in Malta, leading local economist Stephanie Fabri asks: Where are the women?

“Despite the fact that we have more female graduates than men, despite the efforts to eradicate discrimination among women, women remain underrepresented across different leadership positions – in private and public companies, and even politics.”

According to official statistics, the proportion of women on the boards of the largest publicly-listed companies reached 30 per cent in EU Member States, however locally, women only count for 9.9 per cent of board members.

Indeed, Malta has a long way to go to reach the targets laid out by the EU Gender Balance Directive, which is aimed at ensuring at least 40 per cent of non-executive director posts, or a third of all director posts on publicly-listed corporations, irrespective of whether they are executive or non-executive, be composed of the under-represented gender by 30th June 2026.

“We know where women belong,” Ms Fabri affirmed. “As Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated: ‘Women belong in the all the places where decisions are being made.’”

Yet, the glass ceiling still exists.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Dr Fabri was asked what more can be done, after years of discussion on the topic of female representation in senior positions. She remarked that the first step is to “recognise the invisible barriers there are,” adding that to break such barriers “takes a collective effort”.

“Constantly punching the glass ceiling may become tiring for most women, which is why most might give up. It is only through collective effort that we can ensure the glass is broken once and for all.

“Improvements have made in terms of stereotyping, enhanced flexibility, opportunities, etc. however, until we continue to live in a world, in an economy, which is based on the mentality that productivity as an outcome of how much time you input into the system rather than an outcome of capabilities, skills, and wellbeing.”

Ms Fabri acknowledged that despite improvements, society is still far from the desirable state of equality. She cited a study by McKinsey that shows women in leadership positions face higher rates of burnout, with at-home duties, unrecognised work and other factors listed as the reasons for this.

In fact, the same company finds that more women in leadership positions are expressing the desire to step down and focus on their personal life.

On this note, Ms Fabri commented “the fact that women need to work harder than men to get to leadership positions is undeniable, stated constantly through evidence-based research. Reaching the top and ‘having it all’ became so tough and almost impossible that led us to tag women who made it to the top as ‘superheroes’, as the successful ones vis-a-vis the rest of the women.”

But as a recent article by the Financial Times stated, having it all is a poor measure of success. “Women shouldn’t be attempting to be superheroes, women should not stress themselves to get what they deserve. We have the right to live in an economy that prizes equal access to leadership positions, with shared at-home responsibilities, and equality in all spheres.

“The solution(s)? Many theories and measures have been put forth, but we failed in tackling the mentality upon which is the main determining factor leading to the success of these measures.

“Up until we continue to live in an economy and society that measures success and prizes only on productivity, competition, and ambition, the glass ceiling will remain. To break it, we need to ensure that wellbeing is also part of the formula of personal and economic success.”

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