Speaking to EURACTIV.com ahead of International Women’s Day, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, said she was open to being called “Ombudswoman”.
When O’Reilly took the Ombudsman position in Ireland, and then Brussels, one of the first questions she was was asked was what job title she’d prefer.
O’Reilly replaced a man who served a ten-year term in Brussels and is the first ever female EU Ombudsman.
“On the one hand, it is possible to argue that ‘Ombudsman’ refers to the institution rather than the person,” O’Reilly told EURACTIV. “On the other hand, I know that some of my female colleagues in the office would like me to start calling myself Ombudswoman.”
“I am open to making this change,” she said.
The EU-US Privacy Shield, the European Commission’s recently announced, controversial agreement to allow commercial data flows to travel from the EU to the US, includes a designated ‘Ombudsperson’.
Under the deal, the US State Department named top official Kathy Novelli to investigate EU citizens’ privacy complaints.
The EU Ombudsman is tasked with investigating complaints about maladministration in the EU institutions and agencies.
A spokeswoman for O’Reilly said her office has received “very, very few” complaints about gender discrimination in the EU offices since she took office.
O’Reilly responded to EURACTIV’s questions ahead of Women’s Day (8 March). She said “gender equality in any workplace is something that needs to be continually worked at and backed up by specific policies”.
O’Reilly called her own office a kind of “role model in this area”.
“It has 50/50 gender balance in its top and middle management positions. This equality is something I have consciously pushed while being in office,” O’Reilly added.