[Brussels, 29 April 2015] It is now a well-known fact that women represent more than half of the population of the European Union, but they are not represented equally in decision-making at all European levels. This current and lingering under-representation is a serious obstacle to the democratic legitimacy of the EU.
However, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and its members are encouraged by positive developments in the European Commission this year that represent steps in the right direction toward a gender-equal Union.
The European Commission has been increasingly sensitive to the question of equal representation over the years and even declared a strengthened commitment to equality between women and men in A Women’s Charter in 2010. The EWL has demanded, in a Joint Declaration by the 5050 Coalition, that Member States should nominate one male and one female candidate for the college of Commissioners as well as for other top jobs in the EU institutions in order to make measurable progress on such commitments. Despite President Jean-Claude Juncker’s request that member states nominate more women candidates when forming his college of Commissioners last year, the response was disappointing. The current Commission of 28 includes 9 women, proving that achieving parity in the EU executive remains unfinished work.
President Juncker has not given up though, and is aiming to increase the number of women during an upcoming reshuffle of the directors-general. “Mr. Juncker has told commissioners to submit three names for their own department in sealed envelopes, at least one of whom should be a woman.” Hopefully this initiative will raise the number of women in these top civil-servant posts from the current 6 out of 35.
Other commissioners are pushing for more equal representation too. The Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources, Kristalina Georgieva, has declared it her mission to increase the number of women in senior positions in the Commission from 27.5% to 40% by the end of her mandate. The EWL welcomes Commissioner Georgieva’s initiative with great enthusiasm and supports her commitment to promoting women to senior posts.
Finally, the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT) has taken concrete and positive steps to achieve proper representation of women. In March of this year, DG CONNECT pledged to
(1) always include at least two women speakers at events they organize
(2) no longer accept invitations to speak on all-male panels or all male conferences organized by external stakeholders
(3) try to ensure better representation for women at events outside the EU
The DG also made alist of inspiring women in tech to help conference planners identify and invite more women speakers.
A movement has also been born from frustration with encountering all-male or male-dominated panels at European forums and events. In order for real debate to take place, both women and men need to be present and participating. EU Panel Watch (@EUPanelWatch) calls for an end to all-male panels and puts pressure on event organizers by posting and retweeting photos from EU panels, often accompanied by clever commentary. In June, the EWL will dedicate time to the question of parity on panels and look at how this plays out in civil society and which further steps EU institutions are willing to take to make parity become reality in the EU.
The EWL and its members applaud these positive developments and wish to see more praiseworthy measures and continued progress toward parity in the European Union.