Half the world, but still only a third of the MEPs

Earlier this month we had International Women’s Day – this coming Saturday I’ll be speaking at the Gedling Women’s Day, an event “organised by Women, for Women and about Women”, where speakers will be discussing how recent political and economic changes affect women at a European, national and local level.

So this seems a suitable time to ask how the European Parliament is faring in the equality stakes? Just how are women doing there?

Finland is the country with the highest percentage of women MEPs – over 60%, though as they only have 12 MEPs overall, this may not be statistically significant. Sweden and Estonia are the only other countries where over 50% of their MEPs are women.

Bottom of the league table is Malta with no female representation at all, while in terms of the larger member states, the worst performers are Poland and Italy on just over 20% female MEPs, while the UK has just over 30%.
France scores reasonably well with over 45% – but less than 20% of their national MPs are women. In fact it is true of nearly every member state that the proportion of female MEPs far outweighs the proportion of female MPs.

Meanwhile, my own political group – the Socialists & Democrats – is better than most in terms of gender distribution. 40% of our group are women, compared to just over 30% for the centre right European Peoples Party, under 20% for the European Conservatives & Reformists Group (which has the British Tories as members) and under 10% for the EFD Group.

The total percentage of women MEPs has steadily increased from 16.6% in 1979 to 34.6% now. But overall, while there are exceptions, these statistics are disappointing when you consider the regularly stated commitment by the EU regarding equality for men and women.

Of course, just because politicians are women doesn’t necessarily mean that decisions will be made which benefit women – Margaret Thatcher taught us that, and Angela Merkel is not exactly my own political heroine – but something at least approaching parity between men and women MEPs would be a start, particularly in this most modern and multi-national of parliaments.

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