Speech by President von der Leyen at the Women Political Leaders Summit 2021

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

dear Friends,

I am glad to join you at the Women Political Leaders Summit today.

It is inspiring to be among so many female parliamentarians from across the world to discuss a topic which could not be more timely: How can we ensure that, when we come out of this crisis, our societies will be not only more digital, not only more sustainable, but also – more inclusive?

Because this pandemic has exposed not only the fragility of our health and of our livelihoods. It has also exposed the fragility of our societies when it comes to equality and women’s rights.

For every man that has lost his job during the pandemic, almost two women have lost theirs. And the United Nations even warns that the pandemic could set women back decades in their struggle for equality.

Dear Friends,

As women political leaders, we have to make sure that this will not happen!

I have been “a first”, the first woman in a job, several times in my life. As so many of you have also been. We have all made our various experiences. And we know: Change does not come automatically. This is why last spring, for example, the Commission presented its first ever gender equality strategy. With this strategy, we want to ensure equal opportunities in the labour market and achieve gender balance in decision-making and in politics.

We lead through action. And we lead by example. Some of you might know that for the first time in history the European Commission, of which I have the honour to be President, has as many female members as male. This was long overdue!

We now want to repeat this success at the middle and senior management levels. Women already hold more than 40 percent of the top positions in the European Commission. I have set a target of 50% by the end of 2024. Because our democracies are stronger when women are involved as equals. Not because women are better. But because we are different. To see the world in a fully rounded way, we need women and men. This is the only way we will be able to make the right decisions. And to maximise the success both of our societies and economies.

Dear Friends,

As women leaders we have to make sure that we get the respect we are due and the treatment appropriate for our position – just as our male colleagues do. And we have to speak up, whenever this is not the case. We owe this to ourselves. And above all, to others. Because whatever happens to us is immediately brought to public attention. But what about the millions of women who do not have this advantage?

Women who are hurt every day in every corner of our planet but hold neither the power nor the office to speak up. We have to make sure that their stories are also told – and then acted upon!

This is the mission I see for us at this very particular moment: To foster a more equal society as we come out of this pandemic. And to continue our fight for those who cannot make themselves heard. Let me say it again – I am so glad to be with you today!

And I wish you a fruitful meeting!

Thank you! 

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