After many months of hard work this parliamentary term, I am pleased to announce the launch of a very special project of mine, called Women in Power. It follows an earlier publication of the same name, which I launched as a hard-copy back in 2008. This project is intended to do two things. Firstly, by presenting personal profiles of all the current female members of the European Parliament, it draws attention to their individual achievements. Secondly, it illustrates just how far collectively women have come. I want to place on record my thanks to all of my staff who have assisted in this work, especially Nicola Whitehead my Brussels Assistant who takes the lead on women’s issues and who has cajoled and persuaded information from many of my busy colleagues. A big thank you Nicola!
Women, unfortunately, still make up only around one third of the total number of MEPs in the Parliament, and a great deal more must be done to improve this. Nevertheless, this directory celebrates the fact that large numbers of women have managed to succeed in politics, despite the hurdles they face. As demonstrated, some actually go into this field because they wish to respond to the concerns of other women and help enrich their day-to-day lives.
On a regular basis (hopefully weekly!) I will add to my website a new set of profiles from one of the different groups in the Parliament (there are eight in total, including the non-attached members). I start, today, with the group to which my fellow Labour Party MEPs and I belong: the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). Since the European elections in June 2009, there have been fewer S&D members in Brussels than there were during the previous parliamentary term. Yet, despite this reduction, they remain an incredibly strong and diverse group of women who boast a range of different backgrounds, experiences and skills, and who come from a host of different countries.
Not all were involved in politics early on in their careers. Irish MEP Nessa Childers, for instance, first became a mental health professional after graduating from university in 1986, and ran her own psychotherapy practice. She went on to manage a Masters programme at Trinity College Dublin from 2001 to 2006, before being elected to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and later the European Parliament.
Others, such as Chrysoula Paliadeli, worked in academia before being elected into political office. Paliadeli, who gained a degree in Archaeology in 1971 and a PhD in Archaeology in 1984, became a university assistant at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She later taught ancient Greek painting, architecture, sculpture and epigraphy, whilst working hard to improve the quality of the educational system in her country.
In contrast to this, there are several women in the S&D group who held high positions of power in their national governments before moving into European politics. Prior to becoming an MEP in 2009, for example, Liisa Jaakonsaari was a member of the Parliament of Finland, where her roles included chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament and acting as Minister of Labour in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s First Government.
As you will see, there is no typical or identifiable route for women to becoming a member of the European Parliament; MEPs come from many walks of life. I am proud to be a member of a group, and an institution, that comprises of so many gifted and talented women who hold such a wide variety of skills. I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading their profiles and that you will take an interest in the coming weeks in the profiles of MEPs from other groups in the European Parliament.
A quick guide to Women in Power…
Women in Power has been designed so as to make searching through and finding MEPs’ profiles very easy. You will see that the MEPs are divided up in three ways: according to their political group, committee membership and country. Each category, which has its own page, incorporates a full list of MEPs who falls into that particular category.
On the individual profiles themselves, there are links back to the main parent pages. For instance, by going onto my page and clicking ‘Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’, you will automatically be transferred to this committee page and can see all the other MEPs who are members of this committee. If you simply wish to go back to the previous page, you can click on the link in bold at the bottom.
As ever, I would very much welcome feedback and suggestions as to how Women in Power can be developed and improved. If you exprience any problems with the site, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.