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For Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, her ongoing fight for gender rights in the European Union may be the “hardest part of her remit” but she is determined to propel the case for a fairer Europe forward. Though, during a Friends of Europe event on 26 June, her frustration at the slow pace of reform was palpable; she clearly shared the belief of moderator Dharmendra Kanani, Director of Strategy at Friends of Europe, that with the right coalition and the right message, there was considerable opportunity in any continued adversity.
This is not an easy task, however. Figures on violence against women, the gender pay gap and political representation have changed little in the last few years and convincing the powers-that-be of the need to take this issue seriously has also proved an uphill struggle. Given the emphasis that the Commissioner and the EU have placed on reducing the barriers that women face within our society, why are these issues proving so persistent and what can be done to mobilise Europeans and regain the initiative?
As key elections approach, where the makeup of the European Parliament is expected to change radically, the political space for a progressive policy on gender may appear to be dramatically shrinking. Given this potentially more difficult climate, it is clear that a movement which promotes gender as a central pillar of European politics is needed. Due to the extent of the challenge and the level of progress required, there was broad agreement throughout the room that there was no time like the present. However, the question remains, how can we find a message which can convince politicians, policymakers and the public that Europe needs to do more to challenge the barriers that women face in European society?
Commissioner Jourová had a suggestion: appeal to Europeans’ wallets and not their hearts.