Gender equality and politics: Why are women still underrepresented in EU institutions?

« The only thing a man can do better than a woman is grow a beard », was recently announced at the United Nations headquarters. However, men still heavily dominate the political field – even in the European Union.

The EU and gender equality

Out of the 751 Members of the European Parliament, only little more than a third of these positions are held by women. Good news is that the general trend looks promising, with constantly more and more women being elected every five years, bad news is these changes are happening at an incredibly low speed.

The European Union (EU) has played a leading role in the fight for gender equality, and specifically recognized the need for gender parity in representative politics in order to achieve this goal. Indeed, as a recent report from the European Parliament confirms, women’s representation in politics is not only crucial to achieve and uphold social justice, but it is a condition of democracy itself. Despite this being a key objective of the EU, women remain underrepresented within its institutions and bodies. Today, as students of Multilingual Communication for International Relations, we want to examine the reasons for this inequality.

Key factors affecting the gender (im)balance

First of all, the undeniable fact that the political field is male-dominated may serve as a deterrent to women. Even if, by law, women have an equal status to men, the continued prevalence of patriarchal norms, values, and attitudes within political culture shows female candidates that they are not on equal footing with men. As we have seen in several classes, research has shown that certain traits associated with leadership are perceived to be more masculine, while women in leadership positions who display these same characteristics are perceived rather negatively. This plays a big role with the upcoming elections right around the corner: a lot of voters, consciously or not, assume that women generally have less capacity and potential to be leaders than men. Hence, women continuously have to disprove this bias and demonstrate their abilities, justifying their presence in the political field.

Alongside these stereotypes comes media bias. Coverage of women politicians and candidates is disproportionately negative, which could discourage women from running for election, and influences voters even more by affirming their bias. But sexism is not only prevalent in the media: female European politicians often face threats and harrassment from the public and their colleagues, both directly and on social media. While these factors are often downplayed, the numbers speak for themselves: a 2018 study showed that 47 percent of female Members of the European Parliament had been threatened to be raped or killed, while 25 percent had suffered from sexual violence.

So, before gender equality in politics can be fully achieved, this political field needs to become an overall safer space for women to express themselves and their opinions. Until then, each and every person who can vote in the upcoming European elections on May 26 should think carefully about their choice, and try to see candidates through a genderless lense. Only when everyone works towards a less biased and more inclusive environment, can democracy fully flourish.

By Rachel Ledieu

The GDPR enters into force

The European Union, after many years of work, is finally seeing their efforts pay off: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is entering into force May 25th 2018. It has been called the strictest regulation on data protection worldwide and is bound to change the way users’ data are collected and exploited.

But, concretely, what does that mean?

Simply put, users will have more control over what is being collected on them. Their consent will have to be more explicit than before, and companies can no longer refuse access to a website if a user refuses to allow their cookies to be stored. Moreover, the user can ask at any moment for access to the information collected on them and can even choose for that data to be erased (as per their “right to be forgotten”).

Privacy breaches will now have to be reported within 72 hours by the company to the supervising authority, meaning that companies will have to be more transparent. Last but not least, the penalty for not respecting the GDPR can be up to 20 M € or 4% of organization’s annual global turnover, whichever is higher, meaning that companies are more motivated to comply.

This Regulation will apply to all EU organizations and EU citizens. The goal is to enhance privacy in software usage and overall Internet activity.

So students in Multilingual Communication, if you wanted to work for a communications company, be prepared to change the way you target users! This Regulation means that you will no longer be able to use data profiling and algorithms, but you will need to use more creative strategies that will appeal to all kinds of clients.

Still have unanswered questions about the topic? Read this article!

Écrit par Natalia VEZALI