The Brief: 2016: The year women banged their heads against the glass ceiling

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


A lot of us expected the first female president of the United States to be elected this week. She wasn’t.

For anyone who values and respects women, who believes them to be as worthy as men, what is painful about the election result is not so much that Hillary Clinton lost. It’s that she lost to a man who has said and done violent things towards women.

Who knows if and when a woman will someday break the glass ceiling in the US, like Clinton said in her concession speech yesterday.

2016 hasn’t been the best year for that.

There were high expectations that the next UN secretary-general could be a woman for the first time. Half of the final candidates were women, but in September a man was elected.

On Sunday, Federica Mogherini will host foreign affairs ministers—27 men and one woman, for what it’s worth—in Brussels for a special meeting on what President Trump will mean for the future of Europe’s relations with the US.

When Mogherini was chosen to be the EU’s foreign affairs chief in 2014, critics said she was too young for the job. She was 41. Mogherini told Vogue earlier this year that she “paid a little bit of a price for being a young woman”.

Kristalina Georgieva is leaving the European Commission at the end of the year. When she started as Budget and Human Resources Commissioner two years ago, she promised to make sure half of the high-level jobs in the Commission were held by women.

Will her successor make the same promise?

Bulgaria gets to nominate a new Commissioner now that Georgieva is leaving.

At the start of his tenure, Jean-Claude Juncker put pressure on national governments to nominate women for the Commissioner roles.

For now, nine out of the 28 EU Commissioners are women. That could slide down to eight, depending on Bulgaria’s nominee.

That would be the lowest number of female Commissioners since 2004. It would be a bad way to end a bad year.

There is no easy solution. Forty-two percent of American women who voted on Tuesday chose Donald Trump to be their president.

We might have a new female president in Europe next year, but it would be Marine Le Pen.


Europe continued to react to Trump winning the US election: French National Front leader Marine Le Pen hopes she can ride his coat-tails to power, Günther Oettinger said he should “be given a chance”, Tax Commissioner Pierre Moscovici hasn’t ruled out blacklisting the US as a tax haven, the rest of the EU are going meet to talk about it and the German far-right might yet regret Trump taking the White House…

Oh and speaking of manure, it looks like the EU will have to start importing a load of it to reach renewables targets.

Google has formally rejected the European Commission’s complaint that its Android operating system hurts competition.

Ethiopian Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa – the man who raised his arms above his head to symbolise the oppression of the Oromia and Amhara people in his home country – has given an exclusive interview to, in which he describes his fears of how his country (a darling of the NGOs and EU) could become “another Libya” if civil war breaks out, and his fears of returning home.

The Commission is going to investigate whether the Czech Republic’s national railway breaks antitrust rules, but at least its president is happy Trump won. Apparently, they share the same views on migration.

Demonstrators gathered outside Commission HQ earlier to protest against more cash for arms manufacturers. The executive said the proposed €25 million is “testing the waters” for more defence cooperation. EU army anyone?

The EU will be literally testing the waters soon with its new oceans strategy. This Commission is “big on the big things” remember, so what’s bigger than the oceans? Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella explained it all today.

Good news for French President François Hollande: the Commission has forecast that the French deficit will actually be under the 3% ceiling by 2017, as Hollande promised,  slamming center-right party critics for their “unrealistic” predictions. 


Tomorrow is a public holiday in Belgium. Foreign affairs ministers gather in Brussels on Sunday to wrap their heads around President Trump.


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