QOTM: Females in European politics by Laura Krawczyk

In the light of Angela Merkel’s reelection as Germany’s Chancellor and Ewa Kopacz being Poland’s Prime Minister, to what extent is the glass ceiling for women in politics breaking?

Traditionally, men have always been perceived as the power holders in the political arena due to the longstanding line of electing them throughout history. The Queen has never been given as much authority and influence as the King, and is often thought to be just the pretty face standing behind (not next to) the King. Having said that, I feel that there are finally slight cracks in the glass ceiling for women in politics.

Looking back at 2014, there were a few key moments that give power to my words. Firstly, after the sudden departure of the former Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, in favour of taking up the presidency of the European Council, the Republic of Poland was left without a leader behind who they could rally. That was when the Civil Platform’s Ewa Kopacz saw her chance to rise and become the second woman to ever hold the office, after Hanna Suchocka (1992-1993). Since she taken up her role, she has been reaching out to communities and giving speeches aimed at empowering women. The Guardian compared her to the UK’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.

Secondly, Forbes has named Angela Merkel as the most powerful women eight times since 2006. In December 2013, the third cabinet of Angela Merkel was sworn in, reinforcing Merkel’s position as the de facto leader of the European Union. A year later, she was reelected as the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the chief party in the Federal Republic of Germany. Even though she prefers pants to skirts and is quite short, her strong character and swaying skills make her a role model for young girls across the world. She has solidified a dominant position for Germany in the 21st century, which is becoming associated less and less with Hitler and Kaiser Wilhelm, and more and more with the Merkel.

Thirdly, during Jean-Claude Juncker’s campaign for the presidency of the EU, he said that he wished at least “40% of the College of Commissioners [to be] made up of women”. In July 2014 the President of the European Commision called for the European Union Member States to put forward more female candidates to become commissioners as only 3 female candidates were put forward by July. His efforts were not in vain; 3 out of the 7 Vice-Presidents are female, whilst 9 out of 28 seats belong to women. He has taken a large step forward on the European level by addressing gender inequality and gaining the support of a high representative. Even though his Commission is 68% male, this is a step towards strengthening female empowerment.

Europe is changing and is becoming more open for women in politics: starting with Ewa Kopacz as Poland’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel as Germany’s Chancellor, Helle Thorning-Schmidt as Denmark’s Prime Minister, and Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s First Minister, to Juncker urging more women to join his Commission. The 21st century has and still is broadening its horizons to be more women-friendly, however there is still a long way to go. Even though the glass ceiling is slowly breaking, it is yet to break; until it does, I will be appealing for more women in politics, and smiling every time a qualified female takes office. Europe is yet to find its Joan of Arc that will turn the tides completely in favour of women.