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Is the proportion of women within the EU institutions really only 35 percent?


Pagella Politica, Italy

22 May 2019, Updated: 26 May 2019

On 12 May 2019, Caterina Avanza, European election candidate for Italy’s Partito Democratico, posted on Twitter about the percentage of women within the European institutions. According to Avanza, the proportion of women is “only 35 percent”. We checked, and it's true.

The EU and gender parity

According to the 2019 Report on equality between women and men in the EU, produced by the European Commission, in November 2018 the proportion of women MEPs was 36.4 percent. This figure is six percentage points higher than the average proportion of women in individual member states’ national parliaments, which is 30.2 percent.

Women holding other positions of power

Female representation within the European institutions is of course not limited to members of the European Parliament. There are many other positions of power held by women within the institutions.

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) – the independent organisation created by the EU to deal with gender parity throughout EU policy – women in senior administrative positions in 2018 accounted for 32.4 percent of the total.

Breaking this figure down into individual institutions, it emerges that 33.9 percent of these senior positions are held in the European Commission, 29.3 percent in the Council of the European Union, and 25.4 percent in the Parliament.

Below the senior administrators, there are 31.1 percent and 32.9 percent of women, respectively, occupying lower, “Level 2” and “Level 1” administrative roles in the same European institutions.

It should be noted that the European Commission – the institution which last year boasted of its large number of women holding positions of power – has further increased its female representation. On 1 February this year, women accounted for 39.6 percent of the Commission’s managers. The Commission is therefore very close to reaching the 40 percent target set by president Jean-Claude Juncker for 1 November 2019.

How have things changed over the years?

Gender parity in all domains, including work and family life, is one of the central objectives of the European Union.

Since 1979, the year when the European Parliament was first directly elected by citizens, gender parity has made clear progress, going from 15.2 percent of female representatives to the current 36.5 percent.

At the global level, Europe stands out

The EU is the most advanced region in the world when it comes to gender parity in politics. According to the study Gender equality in Europe: what progress in 2019? – produced in March 2019 by the Robert Schuman Foundation – female parliamentarians accounted for only 24.1 percent of the world total by the end of 2018, increasing by just 11.5 percentage points since 1995.

According to data collected by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, on 1 January 2019 the countries with the highest percentage of female representatives within their parliaments were Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia, Mexico and Sweden. Out of 193 countries, Italy, with 35.7 percent, is in 30th place.

The Verdict

Caterina Avanza (PD) claimed that the proportion of women within the European institutions is “only 35 percent”.

The figure, though inexact, is in line with official data. Within the European Parliament the proportion of women is 36.4 percent; those occupying senior administrative positions within the various EU institutions (Commission, Council of the EU, and Parliament) account for 32.4 percent of the total. Finally, in the same institutions, 31.1 and 32.9 percent of Level 2 and Level 1 administrative positions, respectively, are held by women.

In conclusion, Avanza gets a “True”.

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