Professor Johanna Kantola gave a speech at National Council of Women of Finland’s event ‘Onko EU myös naisten?’ (Is EU also women’s?) ahead of the European Parliamentary elections in May 2019. Her talk focused on the ways in which power and expertise are gendered in the European Parliament.
The event was held on 27 April 2019 in Helsinki. Other speakers included for example the Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby Joanna Maycock, and Dr Eeva Raevara from the Gender Equality Unit of the Social Affairs and Health Ministry in Finland. The seminar finished off with a roundtable of Finnish women MEPs and candidates from most parties.
During her presentation, Kantola highlighted that we should not only focus on the numbers of women MEPs but also analyze the numbers of women in the key positions in the European Parliament. For example, there are only two political groups (Greens and GUE/NGL) that have woman as chairpersons, and in the EP committees there are 11 (48%) woman as chairpersons. There is also a question of women’s perceived expertise when looking at who are political groups’ committee coordinators.
Related to this, Kantola discussed her and Lise Rolandsen Agustin’s research on women MEP’s discourses on gender equality vis-a-vis the political groups. The authors have identified four discourses put forward by these women: gender equality as achieved; as a neoliberal conception of individual possibilities and responsibilities; as non-relevant (not recognizing how expertise is gendered), and as stereotypical ideas about women’s expertise. The research is forthcoming in an open access journal article in Journal of Common Market Studies (JCMS) in May 2019.
Kantola also focused on the remaining gendered practices within the EP including for instance sexual harassment as forcefully put on the political agenda by the #MeTooEP, and the position of young women MEPs who struggle to combine the political career of an MEP and a family and who need to constantly prove their expertise.
Photos by Paula Ojansuu