Today, women hold roughly 40% of the top positions in the European Commission. However, this distribution was reached only recently: virtually no women acceded leading positions during the first 35 years of European integration and the trend was stagnant during the two decades after the mid 1990’s.
In this paper, professors Miriam Hartlapp and Agnes Blome use descriptive analysis of original data to provide an overview of women’s representation in the European Commission – the development over time, the number and distribution of women in leadership positions in each portfolio, as well as cross-country differences.
After discussing drivers and barriers, the authors conclude with suggestions of how central actors could achieve more gender balance at the political and administrative top of the Commission.
While recognizing the difficulty to claim strong causal links between gender and policy output, the authors underline the Commission’s importance for EU policy: the institution holds a quasi-monopoly to propose legislation and oversees member states’ implementation of EU policies.
From this perspective, the authors argue, fostering gender balance in the European Commission is an essential step towards EU policy that represents a broad range of citizens’ interests.
According to the authors, if the EU wants to live up to its own normative standards, it is furthermore necessary to represent women in decision-making processes in all policy areas.