Daniele Nouy, head of the Single Supervisory Mechanism
Daniele Nouy, head of the eurozone's Single Supervisory Mechanism

The European Central Bank is struggling to attract enough women to meet its self-imposed quotas for female staff in the first round of a hiring spree as it prepares to take on supervision of the continent’s largest banks next year.

The central bank has so far confirmed Daniele Nouy, previously in charge of France’s prudential supervisor, as the head of its Single Supervisory Mechanism.

But applications from women in the first round of hiring have fallen short of the ECB’s own targets for other senior and middle management positions, according to an official familiar with the hiring process, who did not specify by how much. Around 100 jobs have so far been advertised and have closed to new applications.

The ECB said in August it would target women for 28 per cent of senior management and 35 per cent of middle management roles by 2019, after the European Parliament criticised the limited number of women in senior roles at the institution.

The regulator is in the process of recruiting around 1,000 people for its new supervisory role monitoring the top 130 systemically important banks across the eurozone from the end of 2014.

Officials say that the need to recruit new people for banking supervision has been seen as a golden opportunity to hire more women. A spokesman for the ECB said the regulator would hire a woman instead of a man if both candidates had the same qualifications – a common strategy in German companies.

A large number of the new guard at the central bank is expected to come from existing national regulatory authorities, some of which are keen to retain their influence over national banks by sending their staff to the new posts. BaFin, the German regulator, has even conducted training courses for its staff in recent weeks on how to get through the application process at the ECB.

The ECB is also hoping to take advantage of recent redundancies across Europe’s banks to recruit former bankers who “know where to look”, according to an official at a recent briefing.

Elke Holst, a senior economist at DIW, says that more than half the people who work in the financial sector in Germany are women, but very few women are in top roles. “Nobody likes quotas very much but if we hadn’t had that discussion, things wouldn’t have changed at all,” she says. “Social change normally goes very slowly and this is a paradigm shift.”

While almost half of central bankers are women, just 9 per cent of governors are female, according to the latest edition of the Central Bank Directory. Currently no women serve on the ECB’s top management team, the executive board, or on the 23-member governing council that sets monetary policy for the eurozone.

However, the possibility is strong that Ms Nouy’s deputy will also be a woman. Germany is expected to nominate Sabine Lautenschläger to replace Jörg Asmussen on the executive board, from whose ranks the vice-chair will be drawn.

Should she secure the seat on the board, Ms Lautenschläger, now vice-president of the Bundesbank, is considered a leading candidate to take on the role of deputy because of her background in financial supervision.

The central bank’s move to introduce female quotas comes after the top 30 Dax companies in Germany agreed two years ago to try to put more women on their boards. They had faced public criticism. Last year, just 7.8 per cent of board members at Dax 30 companies were female, according to a study by the Berlin think-tank the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). But that was nearly double the proportion at Germany’s largest 200 companies, where just 4 per cent of executive board members were female.

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