If you want economic growth, you need diversity and gender equality.
- Commissioner Carlos Moedas -
2016 will be the year of the female CEO.
- Saskia Van Uffelen, CEO of Ericsson Belux -
Gender equality at the heart of the Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Moedas in Brussels
To celebrate International Women's Day and under the title 'Women Innovate, Europe gains!', Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, held a Citizens' Dialogue in Brussels on 10 March 2016. The Commissioner shared the stage with Saskia Van Uffelen, CEO of Ericsson Belux and Digital Champion of Belgium. The Dialogue was structured around two main themes: gender equality in the economy and the role of women in research and innovation.
Commissioner Moedas kicked off the Dialogue by explaining that Europe has been a "convergence machine" and that there are no other examples in the history of the world where all parts of an organisation "develop upwards" at the same time.
There was much discussion about the importance of having diversity as a key to being competitive and to ensuring innovation. Commissioner Moedas and Ms Van Uffelen agreed that this not only applies to gender balance, but also to respecting minorities at the social and political levels.
Ms Van Uffelen said that 65% of the jobs we know today will not exist in 2020. She explained that this does not mean that there will be 65% fewer jobs, but that they will be replaced by new jobs. Commissioner Moedas agreed that there will be many jobs in the future that we cannot even imagine today, and that we in Europe should be the ones developing them. "Innovation is hard, it hurts, but it is good because at the end of the day you get better results", said the Commissioner.
On the question of the gender pay gap, Commissioner Moedas said that EU institutions should work to lead by example and encourage EU Member States to do the same. The Commissioner mentioned that, in the specific case of his portfolio, his efforts are focused on achieving gender equality in the European Research Area.
Asked about the introduction of quotas for women working in EU-funded research projects, or even sanctions for proposals that are not gender balanced, the Commissioner replied he does not believe in sanctions but rather in incentives. He stated that the calls for the Horizon 2020 funding programme encourage gender balance in the proposals by giving more chances of being selected to projects with balanced teams, rather than by discarding those that are not.
The Commissioner expressed his concern regarding the fact that even if at the first level of research (PhDs) there are around 50% of women, this percentage goes down to 10% or less at the level of university rectors and deans. "What happens to those 50% of women along their career?" he asked.
Commissioner Moedas concluded the event by quoting Madeleine Albright: "There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women." On her side, Ms Van Uffelen encouraged citizens, and in particular women, to share their ideas. "The European Commission is open to listen. The more we speak out the more we will be listened to", she said.
The Citizens' Dialogue was followed by the award ceremony of the third EU Prize for Women Innovators.
The event in Brussels was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.