The EU prides itself on having equality between women and men as one of its founding values, but how much do the EU’s values match up with reality? Women continue to be under-represented in European politics at all levels. Only 30% of sitting parliamentarians in Europe are women. Despite women making up 50% of the population, they still account for only 38% of the members of the European Parliament.
So, how can we get more female leadership in politics? Belgium sets an interesting example here, as equal representation of men and women on electoral lists has been in law since 2002. Meanwhile France has introduced a system of gender parity for departmental elections; voters are no longer offered a single candidate, but a pair of candidates, one female and one male, ensuring gender equality at the departmental level.
What do our readers think about the topic? We had a comment sent in from Michael, who told us that he would like there to be an equal number of men and women in political leadership positions, “but that requires both women to step up more and men to shut up more,” he says. Is Michael right? How can gender parity be reached?
We also had a comment come in from Simona, who says “until people get used to having women in government there should be quotas.”
Next up, Matej remarks: “Gender does not qualify you for a job – competence does. There could be more women than men, more men than women or exactly 50:50, it doesn’t matter as long as they are there due to competence and not irrational social agendas.”
Finally, Yannick fundamentally disagrees with Matej, arguing that “those who answer ‘competence first’ don’t get one fundamental problem: the system is rigged against women. Even if they are competent, they get excluded as they get closer to the top, because those who decide the criteria for competence are men. Therefore the only way to change the unfairness embedded in the system is to have enough women at the top to impose a change on selection criteria, processes, and values.” Do you share Yannick’s perception?
To get a response, we put these comments to Francesca Cavallo, best-selling author of the book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women” and a Friends of Europe 2019 European Young Leader (EYL). You can see her responses in the video above.
For another perspective, in 2018, we spoke to the German journalist Birgit Kelle, who is against women quotas. At the time, she told us:
I believe that the reasons why there are few women in leadership positions are very complex. The main reason is that women first entered the labour market later. So that’s purely a historical reason, in that we have lived in a man’s world for a long time. It also certainly has less to do with role models, and more to do with the different priorities of men and women. We see that even with affirmative action, women do not necessarily want top positions. Even in countries like Norway, where women benefit from affirmative action, it is no easier to fill vacancies with women. Of course, we are influenced by role models or so-called stereotypes, but we can also see in Germany and Europe that we are ruled by powerful women. These women have not been deterred by stereotypes, so we need to broach the issue of why women are really in less senior positions. It is a novelty that women work in the labour market. Therefore, without a law or quotas, I assume we will see a very different situation in 20 years. We will by then be 50% represented.
How can we encourage more women to go into politics? Why are only 30% of parliamentarians in Europe women, and how can we grow that number? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!