Women's absence from leadership positions and the implications of economic discrimination is cause for alarm, according to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

"We cannot allow women's perspectives to be absent from policy-making and decision-taking processes," she warned, on the eve of International Women's Day being marked tomorrow.

The President appealed to all political parties in Malta to encourage more women to take part in the country's political and public life by exploring innovative ways.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda stresses the need for gender equality, particularly in Sustainable Development Goal 5. This calls for everyone around the world to work together, empowering women, and ensuring they had the full and effective participation at all levels of decision-making across political, economic, and public life.

However, according to the latest UN data, female representation in global government stood at 23 per cent. In Malta, the percentage of female MPs is less than 13 per cent.

President Coleiro Preca said the latest European Gender Equality Index rated Malta at 29.4 per cent when it came to Maltese women's political participation, when the EU average stood at 49.8 per cent.

"By 2030, the nations of the world have committed themselves to raise the percentage of women in global government to 50 per cent. We definitely need to invest more of our energies and resources into making this target a reality."

Closing a conference, titled 'Women in Politics and Leadership', organised by the President's Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, the President encouraged decision-makers to be bold and to work together to develop innovative and further inclusive strategies for the future.

Dr Ruth Farrugia addressing the conference.Dr Ruth Farrugia addressing the conference.

The President highlighted the dire situation where just 2.7 per cent of women were represented on the boards of the largest publicly listed companies in Malta, and for every woman who either held the position of director or CEO, there were four men occupying such a role.

“The gender pay gap also continues to widen. Eurostat figures show the gap has increased to 10.6 per cent in 2016 from 4.5 per cent in 2014. We must definitely do more, in synergy between our national authorities and civil society, to address this alarming state of affairs,” the President urged.

“Gender equity is not simply a ‘women’s issue’. It is essential for our healthy democratic republic to take our responsibilities, as women and men, and the whole of society, seriously,” she added.

Malta's low levels of political representation was also raised by Dr Ruth Farrugia, director general of the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, who said people were concerned at the present “miserable” rates.

“Our response to these concerns has been to provide a space to delve into these issues and hopefully to come up with some concrete suggestions that may lead to changes in policy and practice,” she said.

During the event, the foundation provided a platform for the launch of a new NGO called Network of Young Women Leaders, an inspiring group of young women from diverse backgrounds who came together to set up a support system for young women in leadership.

“Advancing feminism in Malta has rarely been more powerful than in this room right now - let’s make this International Women’s Day different,” Dr Farrugia said, addressing a packed room of women gathered at San Anton Palace.

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