The strong economic arguments for addressing Europe’s gender imbalances will be a powerful tool in countering Europe’s stagnating progress on gender equality, argued Commissioner Vera Jourová at a Friends of Europe debate on 26 June.
“When we put the label of gender, it doesn't fly. To say that something is unfair, forget it. To say that these problems are women’s problem, you condemn it to having no resolution.”
Instead, it was only by highlighting the huge economic losses society was suffering through gender inequalities that she could focus minds and fight the ‘counter revolution’ which had been appearing in some member states.
Not only were EU economies losing between 2-5% of their GDP through the under promotion of women, but research has proven that “companies which had diversity in boardrooms survived the financial crisis better.”
She didn’t spare her Commissioner colleagues from this analysis either, emphasising that the relatively large number of women in the Junker Commission had made the EU better at responding to the myriad of issues it had faced since 2014. Whether dealing with the crisis in Ukraine, Brexit or migration across the Mediterranean, her personal experience suggested that a gender-mixed structure produced the most measured responses.
She had a plan to tackle those who failed to take their equal pay obligation seriously, “future legislation should introduce obligatory transparency about pay policies in companies,” the Commissioner said. “Secondly we must introduce sanctions, legislation without sanctions is a dog without teeth.”
On the upcoming European elections, the Commissioner stated that only the potential for electoral gains would shift the attitudes of political parties and ensure a more diverse party list. She did however caution that, although she personally wished that more women voted for female candidates, an overt campaign to promote this may be counterproductive in some member states.
However, as the debate drew to a close, the Commissioner took the opportunity to make one final call to arms for women: “Let’s get elected because we are better, we are brilliant, we see beyond the horizon and we can change the world for the better”.
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