Gender equality: Is it achievable?

Labour Party

Gender inequality can manifest itself in many ways, be it through gender-based violence, unequal pay between men and women, or the application of gender stereotypes. Needless to say the achievement of full gender equality is still a long way off. Last Thursday a hearing was held in the European Parliament, entitled ‘Towards a new strategy for gender equality’, in which experts and MEPs were invited to debate the merits of the current roadmap towards equality between men and women (2006 – 2010), and put forward some new ideas for the next one.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that most of the speakers who filled the room were women. This alone is a strong indicator of just how much more work there is still to do. I believe that there is a real need to involve men in the debate about women’s rights and gender equality. The stereotypes that trap women also trap men, and there can be no doubt that men need to be allies in the fight against gender inequality. I was very pleased that my fellow S&D Women’s Rights Committee member, Marc Tarabella, attended the event. Tarabella recently put together a report in the Parliament on equality between men and women in the European Union, and his contributions in the Women’s Committee are always thoughtful and constructive.

As we move into a new decade, and make our way onto a new roadmap towards gender equality, I believe that a dual approach towards gender equality is needed, involving collaboration and action by both the EU and national governments. It is not enough to simply focus on policy directly linked to gender inequality, such as violence and unequal pay; the gender aspect must also be considered in policy areas that at first glance are not necessarily linked to gender equality, including migration and asylum. As part of my role in the Committee on Culture Education this parliamentary term, I will be in charge of gender mainstreaming, ensuring that the ‘gender perspective’ is acknowledged in all policy and legislation dealt with by the Committee. The problem of gender inequality will only be solved if gender is considered at all levels and in all policy areas.

The Hearing of Androulla Vassiliou

Labour Party

I’ve just come from the Culture and Education Committee’s hearing for Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner-Designate for Culture, Education, Multiligualism, and Youth.  Mrs Vassiliou is the Commissoner-Designate from Cyprus and held the public health commission portfolio in the last Parliament.

As Co-ordinator for the Socialists and Democrats, I asked the second question, which was:

“Do you agree that the new EU 2020 strategy must include a strong social dimension and thereby contribute towards the fight against inequalities, social exclusion and poverty?

My Group, the S & D Group, calls for the Commission to put the interests of citizens at the heart of its 2020 strategy, particularly in this time of economic hardship, by opening up opportunities for a decent job through better quality education and professional training, which in turn promotes integration and social inclusion. Do you agree?”

She did agree, and her answer demonstrated an understanding of what we can do to improve people’s lives through better educational opportunities.  Ms. Vassiliou did not perhaps provide a huge amount of detail in how she was planning to do this, but I was encouraged by what she said.  Throughout her hearing she was enthusiastic and obviously very committed to her prospective job.

Ms. Vassiliou made a number of other interesting points, I was especially interested by her desire to encourage more women in to scientific research and more men in to teaching.  She had statistics that showed that a disproportionate number of women were teachers and men scientists.  Ms. Vassiliou stated that this was an issue which she would like to address.

Commissioner-Designate Vassiliou also answered questions on higher education and vocational training, lifelong learning, youth policy, multilingualism and sport, among others.  She answered well on all the topics, with the possible exception of sport.  Her nomination as Commissioner has been endorsed by the S & D Group and also by the Culture Committee Co-ordinators from all the political groups. 

I hope that Ms. Vassiliou will live up to the promises she made in the Hearing.  If she can then she will be a strong Commissioner, who I shall look forward to working with.