Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 24

Another meeting in the past week that deserves to be mentioned is the meeting of the women’s organisation on the theme: “More Women – Less Crisis?!” It is held in the building of the information service of the European Commission in the Hague. The meeting is linked to the European elections - which will take place beginning June - in that three women candidates of different parties (all three unfortunately fairly unlikely to be elected) take part in the panel following a clear and interesting presentation of a young female professor at one of the Dutch Universities. The subject is too large to be dealt with in depth, but one point that she comes up with still stands out in my mind. She tells us that in a stable economic situation male characteristics, such as being prone to risk taking can be good for businesses, but in troubled times, like we have now, female characteristics, such as being more careful and less risk taking are better. In Dutch firms there are very few women at the very top. We seem to be on a par with a country like Pakistan. This is not a very good sign and not good for these businesses either.

The three women politicians introduce themselves. One of the younger ones is really bright, but what is interesting is that one of them must be about 60 (what I gather from different facts she gives). She tells how she wondered whether she could be a candidate at her age and without an important career behind her. She got married at a time when it was not acceptable to the Dutch government to have married women in the diplomatic service (where she was working), so she left and became housewife and mother. She did voluntary work and got involved in local politics. Good for her she makes this move. Her place on the list of her party is so low that it is unlikely she will get in. Her only chance would be that enough women vote for her as a preferred candidate. Normally we give our vote to the first person on the list of a party, but if we prefer a person to be elected who is not in the top of the list we can vote for that particular person and if this person has a certain number of votes s/he will get into the Parliament ahead of others higher on the list.

The discussion goes in many directions, the discussion leader is more like a discussant herself. Towards the end of the discussion a person whom I happen to know stands up. She is a lawyer, probably in her early seventies, a keen professional but very dominant, which makes it difficult to work with her. The subject is women’s rights in Europe. She is very excited about the fact that in several South European countries women do not have the right to an abortion. At first she is excited, but the longer she speaks the more hysterical her presentation becomes. Even if she may have a point, the way she presents it does not help. The discussion leader closes the meeting soon after that, reminding us to vote for a woman in the European elections.

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