Women In Business: Board Appointments ‘Should Be Based On Merit’

Joseph Cachia & Son’s Maronna Filletti believes women should ‘bite the bullet’ and try all opportunities before them, despite sometimes suffering a lapse in confidence.

Maronna Filletti, Executive Director at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd, believes that women should be hired on boards based on their merit, conceding that Malta still suffers from an “old boy’s club” mentality.

This means that women have to continuously assert themselves to be heard, she adds. This assertiveness often gets interpreted as aggressiveness, in her view, with accusations often branding women as “emotional” and “guilty of micro-managing.”

Yet, she states that this has a lot to do with culture since Malta – being small and Mediterranean – has its own particular idiosyncrasies. “It’s very difficult to get away from since this is also cultural, both because of our size and because we all sort of end up being related! But we need to start looking at each individual and what they can contribute,” she says.

In this regard, women should be chosen on merit – even on boards – Ms Filletti says, since “it’s an insult for women to be appointed just to make up the numbers.” However, she acknowledges that there is still a problem – which requires further investigation – and asserts that company statutes “must define the expertise needed on each board and that this should be distributed between both men and women.”

She also underlines the need for women to “bite the bullet and go for each opportunity,” and not to shy away out of a lapse in confidence. “We need to be assertive and we need to help each other along, though we cannot be each other’s crutch.” She states that this is also an issue of commitment since top-level positions demand a lot out of every person. “You have to work long hours, miss things and be on the ball the whole time. There’s a lot of sacrifice.”

Yet men also have to step in here, she says, in order to pick up the slack in the home. “Men also need the courage to say to their employers, ‘I need time off to look after my kids.’ A woman cannot improve in her career if they’re always getting a raw deal. Men have time to go to the gym, so why should this be any different?”

Moreover, she says that the seeds for equality are sown from a very young age. “Women need to be taught more entrepreneurial skills and how to take the lead on projects. But their soft skills – such as communication, the ability to collaborate and to listen – are also vital.”

She also believes in a co-educational system in which boys and girls learn how to work and compete together. For, ultimately, when they come to compete in the working world, it’s the quality of the person which counts, she says. “If you have a competent person who can do the job well – whether male or female – then that’s the criteria which is going to define your choice.” Concluding, Ms Filletti asserts that she is hopeful for the future. “I’m a very positive person and I’ve seen the situation changing in my 41 years in the business world. We’ve come a long way, so there’s no going back. Malta will continue to forge ahead,” she smiles.

This is an extract from an interview which initially featured in the September edition of the Commercial Courier. Those featured in the original interview are being presented on this portal as part of a mini-series on women in business.

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