Standing up for young women could make a difference in the upcoming elections. Putting women and gender equality at the centre of EU politics, adopting social policies with a strong gender perspective and implementing gender balance systematically would help to achieve the objective of “a Europe of gender equality and empowered women”, the first resolution of the Party of European Socialists. It would also be a smart and forward-looking move.
In the last European Parliament elections in 2014, only 28% of the people between 18 and 24 cast their vote. The turnout of young people was similar in previous elections.
The post-election analyses don’t offer disaggregated data regarding gender and age at the same time. Do young women and men have the same voting patterns and opinions about the European Union? What do they think and want? Results suggest that women are less interested in and satisfied with the EU than men. The average turnout of women is also lower than men’s, although there are great disparities among Member States. What these results highlight is the necessity to thoroughly think about how to engage with all citizens, and that includes focusing on women and specifically young women. Taking a stand for young women is not only a smart long-term investment, but it also constitutes a strategic move with regards to the upcoming elections.
New waves of support for Socialists could emerge by putting women at the centre.
Women and gender equality at the centre of EU politics
One would be surprised to see the lack of role models for young women in EU politics, including within Socialist parties. The recently elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the USA is being celebrated by young people and especially young women. Her new ways of campaigning and communicating with citizens have increased the support for the Democrats. In Europe, even though politics happen differently, it is difficult to come across an example of this kind. The question that has to be asked is whether European socialist parties are sufficiently empowering female candidates. There are many great young women and men out there doing politics. The low turnout of young people in elections doesn’t mean that they’re not politically active: young people are very engaged in feminist and environmental movements, as well as in the defence of social welfare. New waves of support for Socialists could emerge by putting women at the centre and by embracing with no hesitation the feminist principles of gender equality. This would mean to lead by example and become the key political actors empowering women candidates and championing gender equality.
Social policies with gender perspective
At the same time, to keep developing and strengthening progressist socio-economic policies is fundamental in the current European political context. The 2008 crisis hit young people particularly, and very heavily in some Member States. Still today, the precarious working contracts young people are offered (including the abuse of internship contracts) and the expensive housing rates in cities make living in Europe difficult for many young people. But young women are even more severely impacted by many of these issues. A study by the European Parliament revealed that young women face worse employment conditions than young men: they’re more likely to hold part-time and/or temporary jobs and to earn lower wages than young men. Even though young European women are born with the same formal rights as their male counterparts, they realise that gender inequalities persist in practice in all fields of their lives (economically, in politics, socially…). This creates frustration and a feeling of being left apart. Developing social policies with a strong gender perspective is therefore important to reach all citizens. Much has been discussed about the principle of gender mainstreaming, but so far, its implementation has been inefficient. When developing new policies, one should think of the consequences that it may have on different age and gender groups and foster equality when in practice there is none.
Much has been discussed about the principle of gender mainstreaming, but so far, its implementation has been inefficient.
Implementing gender balance systematically
Finally, one of the actions to be further developed is to systematically implement gender balance: in candidates’ lists, in government composition, in high-positions, in teams and staff, and in all sectors and fields. For example, when a Socialist government delegation meets to discuss energy issues and the delegation is composed by only (or mainly) men, it means that gender balance has not been given the deserved attention. An example of successful gender balance implementation would be to present both female and male candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. As the gender perspective is not integrated into everyone’s minds, adopting parity measures, such as legislative parity requirements, are important to keep the coherence between what it is preached and what it is practiced. Both gender balance and putting women at the top constitute two of the best examples to empower women and advance gender equality that Progressive parties can provide young women and society with.