Women challenge central banking men's club

When the European Parliament turned Yves Mersch down for a top central banking post, it wasn't because he lacked the expertise or experience; they rejected him because he is a man.

Mersch, a Luxembourger who is highly regarded by his peers, had been expected to get the job on the European Central Bank's all-male board anyway. Last month's parliamentary vote was non-binding on EU governments, which have the final say, although Spain raised last-minute objections on Monday.

The vacancy highlighted an uncomfortable fact: not one of the 23 monetary policymakers making vital decisions for the euro zone is a woman. Other central banks are also dominated by men.

Those who sympathise with the ECB say the pool of women qualified as policymakers is small and warn against making token female appointments while Europe is in crisis.

But critics say the ECB and other male-dominated central banks need to look harder for strong female candidates, and stop relying on policy committees of dark-suited clones. The U.S. Federal Reserve, by contrast, has strong female representation.

At the European Parliament, deputies complained that not enough effort had been made to find suitable women candidates for the post on the ECB's six-member Executive Board. One lawmaker said the ECB, which regularly lectures governments on the need for change, should take a closer look at itself.

The ECB is asking all our societies to modernise. Fine. They are asking for structural reforms. Fine. They are asking for more women at work. Fine. And when it comes to themselves, they do not modernise, they do not include women, said Sylvie Goulard, a French liberal.

The ECB has had female policymakers as recently as last year when Austrian Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell completed her term on the board. But currently all the board members are male, as are the national central bank chiefs from the 17 euro zone states who join them on the Governing Council for policy decisions. The next vacancy on the board is not due until 2018.

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