Work-Life balance is important for our future

Labour Party

A year ago Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning in the United States State Department under Hillary Clinton, resigned her job. It was indeed a job to die for, but Slaughter realised that she wanted to spend more time with her husband and children, especially her 14-year-old son who was going through a troubled time.

 The Sunday Times reported how Ms Slaughter talked to a group of women at Oxford University, saying: “I just got up there and started talking about how incredibly hard it had been and how it had changed my assumptions about my entire career trajectory.”

 Slaughter believes we have reached a tipping point. It is just too hard for women to have it all. As men’s as well as women’s lives are changing, Slaughter and other women at the top of their professions want us as a society to address the way we still see paid work, and, of course, the corollary of work in the home and bringing up children.

 One partner in a leading law firm quoted in the Sunday Times made a very telling point: “We’ve got to change what it means to be a partner because otherwise we are not going to be able to attract the best young men, as well as the women.”

 Whet this albeit anecdotal evidence shows is that the younger generation of men are looking for more balance between their work and family life. I find this encouraging. If we are to have an equal society for men and women with both able to make equal choices the question of work, children, domestic and caring responsibilities, men need to be involved. Women and men should be seen as equal.

 Anne-Marie Slaughter’s immediate goal is to close the leadership gap. She is absolutely right when she says that it will only be possible to forge a society which really works for equality when women wield power both corporately and professionally in sufficient numbers.

Slaughter sees an overhaul of school timetables which are based on the assumption that women do not go out to work as essential. She also thinks we need a change in the male-driven work culture of presenteeism, including more home-working and flexi-time, to allow more balance between work and home life.

Interestingly, Slaughter calls for women in employment to talk about juggling childcare and domestic responsibilities with their work. She is certain that if men knew what women have to deal with they would be more ready to make changes.

Anne-Marie Slaughter has, I believe, done us all a service by being so open about her own experience. Work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges our society faces. Women are now expected to work and very often need to for economic reason. For most women staying at home is not an option. We need to address this huge question in a far more rational and thought through way than is currently the case.

Women in Power: Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA)

Labour Party

To follow up my launch of the female members of the Socialists and Democrats and European United Left – Nordic Green Left groups in the European Parliament as part of my Women in Power project, I am presenting today a set of profiles from the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA). This group, which compromises a large number of French and German MEPs from Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens) and Europe Écologie respectively, also includes three women from the United Kingdom.

At 30, Franziska Katharina Brantner from Germany is one of the youngest female members of the European Parliament. Despite her age, however, she already has an extremely impressive CV. Before becoming an MEP in 2009, she was a consultant for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), where she helped to design a European action plan for UN Security Resolution 1325. After this she worked for the Bertelsmann Foundation consulting on EU foreign policy issues. Franziska was for a short time a research fellow at my own university, Oxford, in the European Studies Centre at St. Antony’s College, having graduated in 2004 with a double diploma in Political Science.

Another young and highly impressive woman MEP is Marije Cornelissen from the Netherlands, who sits alongside me in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. She has been a forceful anti-discrimination campaigner, and was even Director of North Holland’s Anti-Discrimination Bureau. Like me, she has a strong background in women’s rights, having been Chair of the Feminist Network of the GreenLeft between 1996 and 2001 and a parliamentary assistant in Brussels from 1996 to 1997 where she followed the Committee on Women’s Rights.

Swedish MEP Isabella Lövin has rather a different background, having spent most of her career in the media industry. She received a diploma in Radio Production from the Dramatic Arts Institute in Sweden in 1994, and went on to work as a radio producer and a reporter of debate programmes on the Swedish channel P1. She has also edited several high-profile magazines. Her strong writing and researching skills have brought her numerous successes, including 14 different prizes in Sweden for her book Tyst hav (Silent Seas) on the European Common Fisheries Policy.

As ever, you will see in these profiles a group MEPs embodying a wide range of talents, which have been manifest both in and outside the world of politics. I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading their profiles, and that they provide a useful reference point for learning more about women in the European Parliament.


Labour Party

Has it really come to this?  While the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) has often been in the forefront of far-right activity (Anne Widdecombe is a former member), I have to say I’m surprised to see this extreme and overt racism.  Surely even hard-line Tories must be ashamed of this behaviour?

Congratulations to Oxford University itself on its decisive action