Maria Damanaki :"In every professional environment a woman has to particularly prove herself !"

Quatrième volet des drôles de dames avec la Grecque Maria Damanaki, 57 ans, un temps leader du parti de gauche radicale ‘Synaspismos', puis députée socialiste au Parlement hellène. Mère de trois enfants et auteur du livre «The female face of power», Maria Damanaki a été nommée Commissaire aux Affaires maritimes et à la Pêche.

Does the fact that you are a woman played a role in your daily job as a Commissioner? In what sense?

When you are a Commissioner, your daily job runs inside a strict framework. At this high political level, everybody - whether man or woman - has to be politically correct nowadays. So the gender does not seem to play a role. Still, beneath all this, I can say from my own personal experience that in every professional environment a woman has to particularly prove herself. It is often not enough that she equals a man in a certain position. She has to be better. But how do you become a Commissioner? How can you move up the career ladder? I can say that a woman often needs to get a higher grade to achieve this. Of course the situation is getting better every day now. But it has not always been like that. I am grateful to the millions of European citizens who supported and support a long standing struggle for equal rights. The European Commission and legislation play a leading role in this.

Why there are so few women at EU-high responsibility job ?

Feminism is considered to be out of fashion since a lot of its objectives have been achieved in many walks of life, and we have moved on. But nevertheless there seems to be still an invisible glass ceiling which has to be cracked open. We are far from parity in that respect. But what is the situation in our societies at large? Women are gradually catching up with men, but this is not yet the rule. Rather, it is still an exception. Talking about the Barrroso II Commission in particular, I can assure you that without Mr. Barroso's personal insistence with the Member States to secure a fairer representation of women, we might have been a much smaller number. I am convinced that an equal number of women in the highest positions will be a reality soon.

Do you think that EU institutions could be qualified as "macho"?

Absolutely not. There is not doubt that women and men commissioners are equal partners in the working environment, the internal debates and the decision making processes. There is still a problem of parity, especially in managerial positions, but the Institutions are actively working to redress this situation. "Macho" denotes an attitude of demeaning women, and pushing them to the margins. In that sense the situation is exactly the contrary: we are pushing in the opposite direction, towards more equality, more fairness, and against marginalisation. For women, especially the ones that come from southern Europe, the European Institutions have always opened new roads for new rights and we have always found a strong ally in EU institutions in the fight against any discrimination.

Did you have any problem during your career to impose you?

In my career, present and past, I have not faced any specific problem other than those faced by millions of other working women. But here is some food for thought: it is considered a challenge to be a working mother, and rightly so. I know that at first hand as I have three children. Why then, is it not generally considered to be an equal challenge to be a working father? Is anybody going to ask a male politician about his father experience? As you see, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

If you could change something in the EU, what would it be?

After the shock of the economic crisis, the EU's lack of strong economic governance is obvious. As long as the economy expanded, we could afford this lack. But now the consequences are heavy, both economically and socially. The impact of introducing such a strong economic governance mechanism would be far reaching, and touch on all aspects of citizens' everyday life.

Ιf you could define Europe in 3 words?

Democracy (based on) diversity (and) social justice.

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