We need a real change in mind-set to allow more inclusion and equality 


Today, the European Parliament hosted the Women Political Leaders Summit in Brussels. Addressing those present, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola said that women political leaders today, must be multipliers and drivers of leadership in women going forward. She also thanked Sviatlana Tshikhanouskaya who has become the global personification of a free and democratic Belarus.

Dear friends,
Dear leaders,

Ten years after the inaugural Women Political Leaders Summit in the European Parliament, we are back here, in the heart of Europe.

There is still more to be done to encourage women and girls across the world to lead - to become forces of change. To help other women rise.

There are few better examples of outstanding and courageous female leadership under unimaginable pressure than that of Sviatlana Tshikhanouskaya. Sviatlana has inspired, has led and has endured. She has become the global personification of a free and democratic Belarus. And let me say here: The age of dictators will come to an end. Belarus will be free - and when that day comes, it will be thanks to women like Sviatlana and like Maria Kolesnikova, who has been illegally jailed for over 1000 days.

We will stick together.

But the truth is, even with role models, even with leadership, there are still too many obstacles. Too many unbroken ceilings.  It is not just in politics, it is across the board. Too many career paths remain blocked.

I am proud of the work this Parliament has done to change. To keep adding cracks to that previously impenetrable ceiling. To change the course for so many women.

Despite the challenges, women in leadership positions have changed the world. Women in business, women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, women in education, women in the arts and in journalism. They have broken barriers and disposed of taboos to the dustbin of history. We have to say this more. We must continue to work hard to make women’s contribution to society more visible.

The message of female leadership that was passed on to all of us; must be passed on by us, ten-fold. Women political leaders today, must be multipliers and drivers of leadership in women going forward. We don’t say that enough and we don’t do that enough.

I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the women in my country who endured to make my path possible. And I want to repay that going forward. Every time we fall - and in politics and life, we all do – we are pulled back up by other woman, who have been through it all before us.  

And that’s my appeal when I speak to young girls across our Union: We have to pull each other up.

I visit a lot of countries and I talk to young people. We are one year away from the European elections. I always get the same question wherever I go. What’s your advice? How do we do it?  I am scared to enter politics. It’s hard especially for women, young women and girls, who need to fight hard for a place at the table. My answer is that being in politics is not easy. Being a woman in politics doesn’t make it any easier.

I was fortunate to grow up with the mantra that if you work hard enough; if you want it enough; if you are ready to climb that mountain then nothing can hold you back - not your gender, not your background. But it is harder than it should be. Too many still fall through the cracks.

We cannot be complacent to the side lining of women or we risk missing out on many excellent candidates that could be the catalysts of enormous societal change. That depends on political parties, on legislation, but most importantly on societal change that we must push through. It depends on role models.

We can be glad to see how many of us are here in this room, how many more women as each election goes by, take up leadership positions, but more still needs to be done. What we need is a real change in mind-set in all countries to allow more inclusion. For more women to run for election and get elected.

I am proud of the adoption - finally - of the Women on Boards Directive last November. A breakthrough for gender equality in European society. It took almost a decade for what should have been obvious.

We can also be proud of how the European Parliament is pushing for equal pay provisions for equal work. Employers will have to be more transparent about the pay gap between female and male workers, in order to close it. This is also a standard reply not a standard question.

How difficult is it for women to enter the career path after having children? How difficult has it been since the pandemic when women took over the role of carer across the world, both for the older and younger generations? We will be feeling the effects of that not only from a mental health perspective, but from an economic and societal perspective for years to come. We need to say it. Nobody else will.

It was women Parliamentarians in this House who ensured that these tough negotiations for equality came through, so that little by little, this world can become a little bit more equal and a little bit more fair.

We can level the playing field - and events like this are crucial for that to happen. Thank you for organising this. Thank you for the inspiration. Let’s continue working together.