a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Women at the top: not nearly enough, says Christine Lagarde

Posted on the November 17th, 2010

Online now at the Financial Times (and not behind their paywall – yet) is a feature listing the top 50 women in world business, see here.

In a related piece, the FT features a five-minute video interview with a woman truly at the top on the world political and economic stage, French finance minister Christine Lagarde (“Lagarde speaks out on female quotas” Nov 16, 2010).

Answering questions from FT editor Lionel Barber, Lagarde acknowledges a recent change of mind about what’s needed for women to move beyond being an endangered species in politics around the world and in company board rooms.


Barber: And in practical terms, do you favor quotas to strengthen women’s representation on boards?

Lagarde : Well, when I was a lot younger, I was dead against quotas. I thought at the time that, you know, we should be accepted on our own merits and everybody’s terms. But as I’m getting older, I see that it’s moving on too slowly. And I support quota. I support quota in companies. I support quota in the political circles as well. There are not enough women at the top…

Lagarde was in London as a keynote speaker at the FT‘s Women at the top Conference this week. Click on video link above to hear full FT interview. Go here to read more about Lagarde’s speech at the conference.

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The Achilles’ heel of democracy

Posted on the March 19th, 2010

A troublesome question keeps cropping up related to democracies, old and new. It’s one that, it seems to me, could turn out to be the Achilles’ heel of this much lauded system of government. And that question is — how do you persuade most (if not all) of the voters to come out and vote when it’s time to do so?

It may or may not surprise you to learn that the highest average percentage of voter turnout globally during the past several decades has been 68% (see here). More recently, though, even that not very impressive statistic has been shrinking, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA):

Overall participation in competitive elections across the globe rose steadily between 1945 and 1990. Between 1945-1950 the number of voters turning out to vote at each election represented 61% of the voting age population (i.e. all citizens old enough to vote). That turnout figure rose to 62% in the 1950s, 65% in the 1960s, 67% in the 1970s, and 68% in the 1980s. But in the 1990s, with the influx of a host of competitive elections in newly democratising states, the average for elections held since 1990 has dipped back to 64%.

In the 2008 Presidential election in the U.S., for example, voter turnout was 64 percent. Turn that on its head and that means that 36 percent of eligible voters — 73 million people — did not bother to go vote. And they made this choice to not participate in the democratic process during a time of great crisis not only for their own country but for the entire world, and in an election that was an amazing historic moment for the country itself.

Interesting, don’t you think?

As many do, I find this trend of low voter turnout generally across the globe to be alarming. But I also think we need to confront it in an intelligent way. For me that means posing a direct question to the citizens of those many countries who choose not to vote — do you really want to have a democratic form of government? Seriously ask this question.

I’m not so naive as to think that high voter turnout is the solution to the world’s problems. An ignorant voter is more often a friend only to the worst of those seeking elective office. To march into the future, simply muttering to our dog or cat about public apathy on election days, while suffering under ever lamer, ever more corrupt governments, however, is not very smart either.

What brought this all to mind is the video below of an interesting interview today on France 24 exploring why 53 percent of the French didn’t vote in last week’s regional elections there.

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More women in French boardrooms

Posted on the January 22nd, 2010

This month the French Parliament is debating a bill that would mandate that at least 40 percent of corporate board members are women. Deadline for compliance would be 2016 (“Shaking up the corporate world” France 24, Jan 20, 2010).

France is playing catch up. It now lags far behind some of its European neighbors in regard to more gender balanced board rooms, according to the news video below.

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