Malmström urges ‘male-dominated’ OECD to do better on gender
Leadership candidate pledges to get more women into top jobs if she becomes secretary-general.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has a “very male-dominated” leadership and must help women “access higher posts,” Cecilia Malmström, the former EU trade commissioner running to be the OECD’s next boss, told POLITICO on Monday.
Malmström was speaking at a POLITICO Playbook Live event to mark International Women’s Day, just a few days before the OECD brings together 37 of the world’s most advanced economies to vote for its next secretary-general. After some candidates withdrew from the race, Malmström is now competing for the post alongside Mathias Cormann, Australia’s former finance minister, to replace Ángel Gurría, the organization’s current leader.
The OECD provides analysis aimed at encouraging economic cooperation, and its work includes encouraging gender equality in entrepreneurship and education. But internally, only five of Gurría’s 14 office staff members are women.
The organization “needs to be better at preaching what it learns,” Malmström said. “It is an organization that is very male-dominated if you look at the leadership. … You need to make sure that it’s much more balanced and reflects the variety of its membership, both when it comes to nationalities but definitely when it comes to gender.”
Malmström added that it was not only about more women at “the very top,” including the post of secretary-general, “but all the chief positions in the organization.”
The Swedish liberal politician said that if she wins the OECD race, she would create targets for the organization to help women “to grow, to train, with coaching and mentorship” and to “help them to access higher posts,” while also encouraging OECD members “to also nominate women because sometimes they forget.”
Externally, Malmström argued the OECD needs to be better about including statistics on gender in its work studying and analyzing economic situations across the globe. The organization also must detail what can be done to improve gender equality in the situations it is studying.
“We need to make sure that also the development assistance that the OECD does has these gender glasses on in order to make sure that you particularly invest in women,” she said.
On trade issues, Malmström welcomed “clear signs” from the new U.S. administration that a “strong transatlantic partnership” with Europe is “in the pipeline,” including the recent easing of tariffs between the U.S. and the EU, as well as America’s recommitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“I think there are very good possibilities for a strong friendship,” she said. “It will not look exactly the same, but it is being defined right now, and I think it will be as strong as ever.”
However, Malmström expressed doubts that any new major trade deal like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — once a potential pact between the U.S. and the EU — would emerge anytime soon.
“Let’s try to find small, concrete items where we can cooperate,” she said. “To launch new free trade agreement negotiations between us, I think none of us are ready for that now.”