To see part 1, press here.
It is pleasing to see the EU taking women’s representation more seriously, especially when considering:
“in the 2009 European elections women made up 35% of candidates, 34% in the top 3rd of party lists (Greece and Denmark being the exception), 34% of MEPs elected, but got 19% of media coverage, falling to single figures in some countries” (figures provided by University of Exeter).
I think it is important to consider different countries’ attitudes towards women and politics when looking at what evidence the EU have cited in support of their view that women’s under representation results in women becoming less interested in politics and thus in turn reinforces their under representation. Due to this, they naturally support the need for quota systems, which I have argued before are based on paternalistic and passive notions of providing women ‘special’ care. Instead, there is a need for structural and cultural changes so that women’s rights and opportunities improve and consequently their participation in politics.
For example, you can have as many quota systems as you like, however, without structural changes such as improving childcare policies then you are only going to get the same types of women applying. Improvements to women’s representation requires a consideration of different countries’ social, economic and political conditions. Redistribution is key to improving women’s rights, as well as men’s. More redistributive polices would help reduce the high levels of poverty women often suffer from, and through this provide them greater financial stability to pursue a career in politcs.
The need to consider the varying position of women within different European countries to help provide a more specific strategy to improve women’s representation within the EU is highlighted when considering the position of women within Italian politics. An article only last year, reports that the Council of Europe found:
“The most worrying figure was the level of female representation in local municipal councils, where women made up just 2.2% of councillors compared to a European average of 24.5%. The only country with a worse record in this sector was Azerbaijan.
Italy fared better at a regional government level, where female representation climbed to 17.2%, although still below Europe’s average of 21.4% and less than half of Spain’s 39.7%.”
Therefore different countries have more problems around women’s representation in politics, and instead of just saying, as the EU seem to be suggesting, this under representation is due to women’s lack of visibility in politics, there needs to be a closer systematic consideration of why women are differently represented in different countries. For example, the article referred to how:
“Italy has also has a dismal record in terms of female employment, ranking second to bottom of all European Union countries, according to a report by EU statistics bureau Eurostat.”
This highlights how there are wider systematic issues within the country and these will help us account for the varying levels of under representation of women within European politics and politics more generally. It is simple for EU to attribute the lack of representation in Europe as a problem of visibility, but with more careful analysis it is clear the problem requires a more in-depth solution.