How do you talk to women today about gender equality? They don't seem want to hear about feminism any more.
EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Vice President Viviane Reding © EU Commission
No, and that’s understandable. The word has negative connotations, and “feminism,” in the way people tend think of it, is a thing of the past. It was relevant for the period when we had to thump the table. That was what was required at the time. Still, the core ideals of feminism – simply, believing that women and men should be truly equal – are still very much alive. Women today want to be able to have children, look after them and continue working in their job. They don't want to earn less than men and they want to receive recognition for their professional skills. And they want a career. I say to them, go for it. And we shall help you with appropriate legislation and efforts to change people's attitudes.
Most often, their career is actually the reason why women don't have children...
I don't think that's true. In Sweden, both women and men can take time out to care for their children full time without having to give up their jobs. And what do we see there? The women have more children there than in other countries and they work more as well. So it is not because they work that women don't have children. On the contrary. But they may not have children if they have to give up their career to do so.
What are your objectives for 2010?
Viviane Reding © EU Commission
At the very top of the agenda is the Charter for Women, as a political statement of our values. The strategy is to follow.
For the first time, we have the political responsibility to create gender equality in all political decisions, and we also have the right tools in the legal system and the necessary information channels at our disposal. We just need to put the well-conceived laws into action.
And which topic will you personally focus on?
I want to carry on as I have been doing in a very practical way; continue to focus on working women. But there is another issue where we really have to get new ideas, and that’s violence against women. It is part of many women's daily lives – domestic violence, human trafficking and genital mutilation, which is often trivialized in Europe. But each day, 6,000 girls are mutilated worldwide. Some of these girls live in Europe. So it does concern us.