Gendering the European Central Bank

While researching on the representations of the so-called fathers of Europe, I read with great interest Anna van der Vleuten’s article, “Gendering the Institutions and Actors of the EU,” pp. 41-62 in the book Gendering the European Union. New Approaches to Old Democratic Deficits ed. by Gabriele Abels and Joyce Marie Mushaben (London, 2012 [2015]). In it, she analysed the number and percentage of women in several EU institutions (the Commission, the Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council and the Court of Justice). Here I would like to add some information on the European Central Bank.

The European Central Bank has been in existence since 1998. It is headed by the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, which is composed of six members, appointed by the European Council, after consultation with the European Parliament and consultation with the Governing Council of the ECB, i.e. the governors of the national central banks of the eurozone.

Here is, in table form, the history of the composition of the Executive Committee of the European Central Bank. I adopt the format of van der Vleuten’s presentation, p. 44 (m = man, w = woman).

Years President Vice President Number and percentage of men in the executive board
N / %
Number and percentage of women in the executive board
N / %
1998-2001 Wim Duisenberg (m) Christian Noyer (m) 5 / 83 1 / 17
2002 Wim Duisenberg (m) Lucas Papademos (m) 5 / 83 1 / 17
2003-2009 Jean-Claude Trichet (h) Lucas Papademos (h) 5 / 83 1 / 17
2010 Jean-Claude Trichet (m) Vítor Constâncio (m) 5 / 83 1 / 17
2011 Mario Draghi (m) Vítor Constâncio (m) 6 / 100 0 / 0
2012-2013 Mario Draghi (m) Vítor Constâncio (m) 6 / 100 0 / 0
2014-2017 Mario Draghi (m) Vítor Constâncio (m) 5 / 83 1 / 17
2018 Mario Draghi (m) Luis de Guindos (m) 5 / 83 1 / 17
2019-2022 Christine Lagarde (w) Luis de Guindos (m) 4 / 67 2 / 33

It is obvious that in terms of gender representation or gender equality among the ECB’s senior managers, like for the other European institutions, “somebody is not practicing what is being preached “.1 However, the presidency of Christine Lagarde should be highlighted. When she succeeded Mario Draghi in 2019, Sabine Lautenschläger entered the last year of her mandate ; in 2020, she was not replaced by a man, as was the case with Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell in 2010, which created an all-male board for three years.2. For the past two years, Isabel Schnabel has been the second woman on the Board. I don’t know whether this is simply a sign of changing attitudes or a sign of Lagarde’s leadership.3

Photo by and in the European Parliament, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82312546

If we now look at the Governing Council, “the main decision-making body of the ECB”, which is composed of the six members of the Executive Board plus the governors of the national central banks of the euro area countries, we have a completely different image of the EU, since at present all the central bank governors are men:

  Number and percentage of men in the Governing Council
N / %
Number and percentage of women in the Governing Council
N / %
2022 24 / 92 2 / 8

There is no real surprise here, since heading a central bank in the eurozone seems to be a male preserve,4 which goes against all the fine words and the image that the European Union intends to project, sometimes looking like an annoying preacher. However, the EU itself is not responsible for this sad state of affairs, as the appointment of the head of a central bank is obviously a purely domestic decision.5

1998-2022

(Note: not all countries are members of the euro zone during this period)

Number and percentage of men heading the bank

N / %

Number and percentage of women heading the bank
N / %
Deutsche Bundesbank 6 / 100 0 / 0
Oesterreichische Nationalbank6 7 / 100 0 /0
National Bank of Belgium 5 / 100 0 / 0
Central Bank of Cyprus 5 / 83 1 / 177
Croatian National Bank 3 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Spain 5 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Estonia 4 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Finland 4 / 100 0 / 08
Bank of France 3 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Greece 4 / 100 0 / 0
Central Bank of Ireland 5 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Italy 3 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Latvia 3 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Lithuania 3 / 100 0 / 0
Central Bank of Luxembourg 2 / 100 0 / 0
Central Bank of Malta 5 / 100 0 / 0
De Nederlandsche Bank 3 / 100 0 / 0
Banco de Portugal 4 / 100 0 / 0
Bank of Slovenia 5 / 100 0 / 0
National Bank of Slovakia 4 / 100 0 / 0
Total 83 / 99 1/ 1

Does the misogyny at work in the ECB’s governing bodies have an impact on the object of this researcher blog, the iconography and messages of the euro coins, and on the near absence of images of women on these coins?9 It would obviously be naive to see a direct link, but it is not an unfair assumption to think that a group of twenty or so men will not spontaneously think about gender parity. Moreover, it should be noted that the only country to issue euro circulation coins with equal representation of a woman and a man (Bertha von Suttner and Mozart) is Austria, a rare country where a woman, Maria Schaumayer, was governor of the central bank (1990-1995) and where another woman, Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, was deputy governor of the bank (1998-2003) before becoming a member of the ECB executive committee. I doubt that they personally had a direct impact on the bank’s coin design choices, but perhaps it is more than a coincidence that greater attention to gender equality is being paid in Austria to both appointments and images.

It should be mentioned here that the ECB announced in 2021 its intention to change the design of the euro banknotes and that a “theme advisory group” has been formed, “with one expert from each euro area country.” “The members of the advisory group have already been appointed by the ECB based on proposals from euro area national central banks, and are drawn from diverse fields such as history, natural and social sciences, the visual arts and technology.” Unless I am mistaken, 9 members of this group are women and 10 are men.10 The creation process of the advisory group shows that the ECB, under the presidency of Christine Lagarde, has been voluntarily respectful of gender parity. It remains to be seen whether this spirit will be maintained at higher levels of decision-making in the bank11 and in the iconography of the banknotes, which, for the moment, it should be recalled, is remarkable for its total absence of human representations.

Sitography

This blog entry was written quickly and illustrated thanks to Wikipedia articles about central banks in different languages. Many thanks to Contributeurs de Wikipédia, “Comité exécutif de la Banque centrale européenne,” Wikipédia, l’encyclopédie libre, https://fr.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Comit%C3%A9_ex%C3%A9cutif_de_la_Banque_centrale_europ%C3%A9enne&oldid=200516782 (Page consultée le janvier 17, 2023) ; Wikipedia contributors, “Executive Board of the European Central Bank,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Executive_Board_of_the_European_Central_Bank&oldid=1124232996 (accessed January 20, 2023). Under my pseudonym HotaniKG, I translated from English into French the Wikipedia articles about the female members of the European Central Bank Executive Committee that were missing on the French Wikipedia.

Photo credits

  • Sabine Lautenschläger, photo by Banque Centrale Européenne, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=103725873
  • Sirkka Hämäläinen, photo by Soppakanuuna — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27370253
  • Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, photo by SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=127899914
  • Christine Lagarde, photo by Parlement Européen, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=96224562
  • Isabel Schnabel, photo by Gregor Fischer, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89624937


Citer ce billet
Alexis D'Hautcourt (2023, 23 janvier). Gendering the European Central Bank. Faces d'identité. Consulté le 19 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/olzj

  1. Shelagh Roberts, Member of European Parliament, 1981, quoted by Gabriele Abels and Joyce Marie Mushaben in their introduction to Gendering the European Union, p. 5. []
  2. Some members of the European Parliament had expressed disapproval : see ECB Nomination, Politico (18 December 2013). []
  3. She has expressed her position on gender parity in several interviews, for instance, Accès des femmes à des postes de pouvoir : “Je suis favorable à des quotas”, estime Christine Lagarde, franceinfo (22 March 2021) or, interviewed by Delphine Cuny, Pour Lagarde, « la féminisation de la finance n’est pas une option, c’est une nécessité ! », La Tribune (18 October 2019). []
  4. This is a worldwide phenomenon; see C. Bodea, A. Kerner, Men don’t trust female central bankers on inflation or the economy, survey data shows, The Conversation (1er novembre 2022) ; T. Goodman, D. Zona, Banks Show Slow Progress on Gender Diversity, International Banker (17 octobre 2022). Non vidi : P. Charléty et al., Appointments to central bank boards: Does gender matter?, Economics Letters 155 (2017), p. 59-61 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econlet.2017.03.019) ; G. Birindelli, A. P. Iannuzzi. “How Central Are Women in Central Banks?”, Women in Financial Services (Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2022), p. 239-295 (DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-93471-2_8). []
  5. J. Ewing, Women Are Missing at Central Banks, The New York Times (22 October 2019). []
  6. Maria Schaumayer : president from 1990 to 1995. []
  7. Chrystalla Georghadji : governor from 2014 to 2019. []
  8. Sirkka Hämäläinen : governor from 1992 to 1998, became member of the executive board of the BCE in 1998. []
  9. I mean female humans, not allegories, nor religious figures, nor queens, who are not represented for their actions but as national symbols. See my article : Alexis D’Hautcourt, Très peu de femmes, beaucoup de patrimoine et un peu d’optimisme. Analyse comparative des iconographies de l’euro et du yen, CETIC 9 (2020), p. 5-22. []
  10. European Central Bank, Presse release. ECB to redesign euro banknotes by 2024 (6 December 2021). []
  11. See Lagarde’s voluntarism expressed in the video mentioned above; see also Isabel Schnabel and Margarita Delgado’s declarations in the article by Martin Arnold and Daniel Dombey, Women central bankers want action on ‘hidden barriers’ to equality, Financial Times (4 May 2021). Non vidi : L. Hospido et al., “The gender promotion gap: evidence from central banking.” Review of Economics and Statistics 104, no. 5 (2022): 981-996 (https://doi.org/10.1162/rest_a_00988). []
Publié le
Catégorisé comme English

Par Alexis D'Hautcourt

Professeur, Université des Langues Étrangères du Kansai (関西外国語大学, Kansai Gaidai University)

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