Barbara Matera is an Italian MEP for the EPP group. As Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, she has always been on the front line to fight for equal rights between men and women in Europe. UNITEE met her to discuss this very important topic, which is getting more and more central while the next year’s elections are approaching.
What are the most important steps that have been taken at the EU level, concerning gender equality? What is yet to be done?
The European institutional actors (Commission, Council and Parliament) work every day to make gender equality a constant principle in all legislations. As far as my role is concerned, I am always trying to talk about gender equality, which includes both wage equality and in general, treating women as equals. Therefore, even though the current economic and financial situation is quite difficult, and everybody’s attention points to that direction, we don’t have to forget that, among the many things that the EU does for its citizens, there is, undoubtedly, a particular focus towards women.
What are the advantages that could come to the European economy by more effectively integrating women’s talent?
Integrating women at the highest levels in companies and organizations can bring a decisive added value. It is proven that 60% of European women have a university degree and they always have extremely high results. There are even some studies that have shown that Boards of Directors with a strong female component have achieved better results.
Apart from that, the current crisis can be overcome by involving more women in the professional field, while helping them achieve conditions that can allow them to pursue their careers. I don’t want to see women having to choose between career and family. I would like to see women who are able to split their time, and who can count on a strong welfare system; to be able to become established women, as well as happy mothers.
What can you comment on the situation of women in Turkey, given also the recent events that have seen women play a crucial role in the protests?
From what we have seen through media and social networks, I must say that some small steps have been taken to enhance the position of women in Turkey. Nevertheless, Turkey needs to involve more women in political and professional fields, but also to enhance their education, and ease the process for them to enter the job market autonomously.
Furthermore, concerning the role of women in politics, I would stress that it is scandalous that only 1% of the mayors in Turkey are women. It is an extremely low number; I think that they can be counted on the tips of our fingers. For this reason, among the many requests that the EU makes to Turkey in the accession process, there is also one about opening its society, making it more inclusive. How? Involving women more actively in the social process, but also in the economic development of the State itself. We want Turkish women to be more present in different areas of social life, and to be recognised for their contributions.