What are the initiatives undertaken by the European Union to deal with violence against women?
Fighting violence against women is one of my key priorities. Gender-based violence is incompatible with the Union’s values and we must not tolerate it in our society. One in three women in the EU has been a victim of violence. And domestic violence, harassment at work, assault in public spaces, or cyber violence and abuse are a threat to all women and girls.
Over the years, the Commission has supported national authorities and civil society to implement actions that make a real change for women and girls all over Europe. And, last year, the EU signed the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention. The Convention’s holistic and human rights-based approach is fully in line with the Commission’s approach. And I believe it will encourage EU Member States to apply EU law in a more coherent way, and with a gender-based focus.
Also, last year, we launched a series of focused actions to raise awareness of all forms of violence towards women – domestic violence, violence in the public domain or at the workplace. And throughout the year the Commission provided funding for projects that support efforts to eliminate this kind of violence and support victims in the European Union. This reaffirms our commitment to fight gender-based violence.
At the same time, last December, we made first steps towards a global alliance to combat violence against women, with the OECD, the Council of Europe and UN Women. Together, we can act faster with more targeted actions and make sure no-one is left behind.
Also, last year’s edition of the RegioStars, our annual competition of the best projects funded by Cohesion Policy, rewarded a network of centres in Murcia, Spain, that supports female victims of gender-based violence in the category “gender equality”.
On leadership, some still believe that women are less qualified and capable than their male counterparts. Do you think that policies are sufficient to tackle with these rhetoric resulting from deep-rooted cultural and historical practices?
Women’s under-representation in economic leadership positions is a clear waste of human capital. That is why gender equality at work is a business and economic imperative. For so long, the “glass ceiling” has kept many women from reaching the top of the corporate ladder and we are working hard to change that. I am convinced that without action at EU level there is no real possibility of achieving the aim of greater gender balance across the EU.
We must also ensure that women have the same access to the labour market as men. And we must help women stay in the labour market and in economic activity, and have the same opportunities as men to progress in their careers.
At the same time, we must increase the representation and participation of women in decision-making in politics. Through the “Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme” the Commission is currently providing funding to projects which directly support the participation of citizens, with a particular focus on the democratic participation of women.
This year, we will be holding a high-level event on democratic participation in 2018, which will bring together experts, policymakers and decision makers from across the EU to debate and disseminate effective practices which foster democratic participation, especially for underrepresented groups, including women.
I believe it is essential to overcome the rigid gender roles and stereotypes which hamper both men and women in the work place. We are making every effort to change this. We have placed equality in employment, pay and decision-making at the heart of our 2016-2019 ‘Strategic engagement for gender equality’, making these issues top priority for action.
Our action plan sets out how we will try to achieve our goals with a mix of legislative and non-legislative measures.
My aim is to help women achieve their economic, social and political potential.
Female entrepreneurs represent only a third of the self-employed in the EU. How does the European Commission foster women’s entrepreneurial spirit and encourage more women to start their own companies?
Entrepreneurship is an enormous opportunity for economic growth, employment and prosperity and women represent the largest untapped potential for entrepreneurship in Europe. Women entrepreneurship is a source of economic growth and new jobs, and we should encourage that.
Let me remind people that women are more likely than men to work part-time, to interrupt their careers and to take on most of the family care responsibilities. These factors have a negative impact on their pay, overall earnings and pension entitlements.
I believe that women should have the same opportunities as men.
To buck this trend, we have put forward a “Work-Life Balance Initiative”, which aims to encourage more men to share the family care duties and increase women’s labour market participation. With the Work-Life balance initiative, we continue to push for policies that can help both women and men to reconcile their professional and private lives. Equal access to child care is a good example.
The way forward is to create a favourable environment for women to start and grow their business. This can start already in school – entrepreneurship education with tailor-made courses for young girls could help to change perceptions, and overcome cultural and gender stereotypes.
At the same time, the “Strategic Engagement for gender equality” also promotes efforts to raise awareness of female entrepreneurship. More women entrepreneurs will help to strengthen the role of women in our societies, a goal that we all want to achieve.