Neelie Kroes : "Women are more interested in getting a result than in their egos."


Troisième volet de notre série "Drôles de dames" avec la Néerlandaise Neelie Kroes, 69 ans, classée parmi les 100 femmes d'affaires les plus influentes du monde par le magazine « Forbes » et désormais Commissaire en charge de la société numérique.

Does the fact that you are a woman play a role in your daily job as a commissioner ?

I've had a wide range of experiences - some of them, like being a mother, because I am female - and those experiences help you make good judgements. On a general level, I think that women work better in a team than men because they are more interested in getting a result and less interested in their egos. Over time you learn that judgement is the most important thing. I try to focus on that, not on being the loudest or the most prominent. That may sound strange given that I've had quite a profile in recent years, but I think that is because we took difficult, important decisions, not because I chased attention.

With only 9 women appointed as commissioner, the parity men/women is far from being respected in the Barroso Commission II. Why ?

At the end of the day it is up to the Member States to nominate Commissioners, so responsibility rests with them. President Barroso has been very strong and clear about the benefits of more female Commissioners, and that in fact is how I was nominated in the first place as Competition Commissioner, because The Netherlands was promised a prominent role if they made such a progressive appointment.That approach can only work so often, however. What we really need is pressure at the national level on governments to start reflecting the demography of their population. That's where the change will happen.

How is it possible that there are so few women at EU-high responsibility job ?

Women are often juggling more responsibilities than men - especially regarding parenting. Women often do not apply for a job unless they are fairly certain they will get it, which puts them off applying for top jobs. When women take time out of the career circuit especially when they are starting to rise in their 30s, it puts them at a long-term disadvantage. They will always struggle to catch up, and because there were so few of us trying to keep up in the 1970s and 1980s, that is why you see few women at the very top today. The situation will get better, but that is no excuse to be complacent.

Do you think that EU institutions could be qualified as "macho" ? Did you have any problem during your career to impose you ? There are macho people in any institution - but less so these days. It's important to stand up for yourself if you don't like the culture of an organisation. I think women have been quite successful in proving their value and to showing there is more than one way to get a job done. And I think it's clear that having women on your board and in your management is a good thing from both a justice and an economic perspective. To reverse the question, we could ask ourselves whether having male-dominated boards helped us avoid to situations like the recent crisis. The answer is obviously 'no.'

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

I would get people to focus on their legacies - they should not be distracted by short-term political considerations. The non-political space offered to a Commission college to operate is a very precious thing. We are not going to get to a green economy, reduce debt, or ensure dignity for our aging population if we only look after today and tomorrow. We have to be thinking much further ahead to the world were our children and grandchildren will live.

If you could define Europe in 3 words ?

Peace. Prosperity. Progress.

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