Knocking at the Glass Ceiling: Women in the EU Politics

Malwina Talik

To be effective and just, representative democracy should mirror the demos. Women constitute about half of the society, but do they enjoy a respective representation? The EU is a front runner in this regard. The situation varies greatly among the Member States, but on average women comprised 33% of national parliaments and cabinets in 2020, four were heads of state. A far cry from gender parity.

Women have more seats at the political table, but not necessarily more say. A greater formal representation does not automatically translate into more even power distribution. Social attitudes and biases do not cease to exist overnight because of new regulations and quotas. Women politicians often face more hateful personal attacks, struggle to have their voices heard and be taken seriously: not only in the parliaments, but also in media and society.

“Sofa gate” showed that the authority gap still exists and even top female politicians face blatant gender discrimination. As Ursula von der Leyen stated after that incident: “This shows how far we still have to go before women are treated as equals.” If this happens to President of the European Commission, then what about women at lower positions of power?

Woman quotas, in place in ten EU countries, can be one solution, but not a panacea. Challenging gender stereotypes, engaging women into politics, offering them leadership opportunities, can be some other ways to achieve a gender balanced political representation sooner than in 145 years!

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