There are more women serving as company directors than last year, but Malta still ranks at the bottom of the European league, figures out this week show.

In a study gauging the progress among Member States in terms of sustainable development goals, Eurostat reported that in Malta, only seven per cent of board members were women. The percentage stood at 4.5 per cent in both 2016 and 2015.

On average, the percentage of women on boards in the EU is 24.6 per cent, and though this shows an increase of 16.1 percentage points between 2003 and 2017, it also shows that three of four company directors are men.

France is the closest State to parity on boards, having 42.1 per cent of women directors. On the other end of the scale, Estonia and Romania come closest to Malta’s rate, at 7.4 per cent and 8.4 per cent, respectively.

The lack of women in senior positions has long been regarded as a problem and was highlighted in the last election, when just eight women made it to Parliament. Female candidates won just 11 per cent – or 35,850 – of the 310,665 valid votes cast.

According to Eurostat data, with a mere 12.7 per cent of parliamentary seats occupied by women, Malta has the second-lowest rate, after Hungary at 9.5 per cent.

At the EU level, there was a slight improvement in the average number of women in Parliament, up to 28.9 per cent from 28.2 per cent. However, in Malta the figure dropped from 13 per cent in 2016.

The two main political parties have already adopted systems targeting gender balance.

The Labour Party ensures that at least four members of the executive, composed of a maximum of 12, must be women, irrespective of the number of votes they win.

After the June election, Labour also launched the LEAD plan, pioneered by MEP Miriam Dalli, in a bid to have an equal number of male and female candidates by 2027.

The Nationalist Party introduced a system of gender equality in the election of members of party structures when former party leader Simon Busuttil succeeded Lawrence Gonzi.

This entails the use of two separate ballot papers, one for men and one for women, and voters are required to choose the same number of preferred candidates from each sheet.

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