‘Females in Front’, a campaign that seeks to boost women’s representation in the European Parliament and other EU top jobs available next year, has embraced Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate for the US presidency, despite her long-standing opposition to abortion.
The 50/50 campaign was launched yesterday (16 September) in Brussels in the presence of Margot Wallström, the Commission vice president in charge of institutional relations and communication strategy.
Although women attending the event tended to support the Democratic Party, they welcomed Sarah Palin’s nomination as the Republican candidate for US Vice President.
Emma Bonino, a former European commissioner who is now vice president of the Italian Senate, said she “doesn’t like” Sarah Palin but was nevertheless pleased that a woman had now joined the US presidential race.
“I regret that the Democratic side did not choose any woman,” Bonino added.
Wallström said the European elections in June 2009 provide a unique opportunity that should not be missed, particularly as they will take place at more or less the same time throughout the EU, providing an opportunity to mobilise people with a common objective. But to generate support, the campaign would also have to rely on national political parties, she admitted.
Wallström also pointed out that women, who represent half of the electorate, are under-represented in the EU institutions. Only a third of MEPs are female and Wallström herself is one of just nine women in the 27-member Commission.
But she said in many EU countries the balance was often worse, with the exception of Spain, where for the first time, the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero appointed more women than men (nine to eight). It was also noted that the Spanish government was far ahead of others, pushing for legislation which targets not only equal numbers of women in elected office but also the corporate sector.
Spanish Minister for Equality Bibiana Aido said women traditionally represent values which are recognised today as necessary for leadership. She cited teamwork, flexibility, readiness to learn and sensitivity to situations among these.
But speakers did not all agree that women are more apt than men at becoming leaders. “Possibly we are not better [than men],” she said. “The difference is [men] do think they are better,” Bonino said.