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José Manuel Durão Barroso

Président de la Commission européenne

Statement by President Barroso on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the International Women's Day

Joint press conference with the European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, the Chair of the EP Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee Eva-Britt Svensson, and the Vice-President of the European Commission Viviane Reding

Strasbourg, 8 March 2011

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, at the first centenary of women's day, we pay tribute to one century of struggles and of successes. And I am proud to say that European women were always at the forefront of this fight, namely in terms of political rights. And we should ask ourselves what would be our societies, our economies, and our politics today, without the full participation and contribution of women?

Today, the principle of gender equality is firmly anchored in the European Union and is reflected in an important body of legislation and non-legislative initiatives.

However, the international women's day does not only mark the achievements of tireless struggles and manifold successes. It is also a wake-up call for all those who think that gender equality sounds good on paper, but does not really need to be followed through in practice:

  • Having an employment rate of around 18 % less for woman than for men is simply intolerable.

  • Having gender pay gaps of 18% between men and women is unacceptable.

  • And excluding women largely from the top jobs – despite excellent qualifications - is simply a waste of talent and resources that can only harm our economy. Apart from being a discrimination, it is also negative for our economies.

There are many more examples showing us that much more still needs to be done to really have a reason to celebrate women's day.

The Commission is and remains at the forefront of those pushing gender equality – inside the Commission, inside the European Union and in our relations with third countries.

Let me just briefly illustrate this through a few examples:

  • Today gender equality is integrated in all our policy proposals and actions. This is what we call usually gender mainstreaming.

  • Concerning the composition of the Commission, I personally pushed Member States to achieve a balanced representation of women and men in the new College. I have to tell you it was not easy at all. I am proud that the current Commission includes 9 women out of 27 members of the College. Of course it is still not completely gender balanced, but if you compare with the situations some years ago when there were no women at all or just one, it is certainly progress. The presence of women in senior management posts has increased more than fivefold, going from 4% in 1995 to 21,4% in 2009.

  • I am also proud that I appointed the first ever female Secretary - General of the Commission – Catherine Day, and that, since a short while ago, another woman, Marianne Klingbeil, deputises for her. This is very important because I remember when I arrived in the Commission, I think there was only one woman Director-General.

  • We have a Woman's Charter and a strategy in place for promoting further gender equality.

  • And finally, we also do not want to leave any doubt about our wish to see women at the heart of the transition processes for democracy. We are really supportive of the courage of young women, together with men, in North Africa and in fact we have mentioned this in the Ashton/Reding statement very recently.

Let me conclude by thanking Vice President Reding for her commitment and enthusiasm to make equality between men and women a reality. Her determination is a good signal of the Commission's clarity for this very important agenda.

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