Women in culture and tech: Petra Kammerevert, Member of European Parliament
Today we speak with Petra Kammerevert - Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT). In her rousing interview, she discusses the barriers entrepreneurial women face and just why 'women should be more demanding, more explicit, more self-assured than ever'.
How did you enter into politics?
I joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), at the age of 18. My motivation was influenced by developments in both Germany and Europe, namely the anti-nuclear movement and the NATO double-track decision. I wanted to proactively contribute to these debates with the aim of making our continent a safer place. The SPD, as the party of peace, social justice, freedom and solidarity was, and still is, the right place to do so.
Can you discuss your views on entrepreneurship? Do you think that more needs to be done to support female entrepreneurship?
Female entrepreneurs are key to accelerating economic growth and social innovation.
Nevertheless, the acknowledgement of their positive contribution to society and economy is far from sufficient. In this regard, cultural and societal norms - we can also call them prejudice - constitute the greatest obstacle. They decrease the legitimacy of women being good entrepreneurs and their opportunities to become them. This is why entrepreneurship is still a men’s arena, despite women already exceeding the formal education levels of men. What a waste of talent and potential of a large part of our population - which in turn negatively affects all citizens!
What do you see as the key challenge for professional women today? What can be done to improve matters?
In order to overcome the false narrative that only men can be successful entrepreneurs, I believe that education is key. Quality education is the best way to fight outdated gender roles and norms and help future generations in being more gender-sensitive. Furthermore, schools are the right place to proactively address entrepreneurial skills and promote entrepreneurship equally amongst boys and girls. However, there is not only a need for changing the public perception of female entrepreneurship but also other barriers occurring over the life story of most women, especially of working mothers. We need to urgently adopt measures that facilitate and improve a work-life balance such as the right to free childcare and increased parental leave shared between the parents.
Do you feel that women are sufficiently empowered and present in leadership positions?
Clearly not! A quick glance at the composition of most governments, parliaments or boards of directors of large enterprises in the world is enough to see that women’s participation in leadership positions is far from sufficient. However, we should not generalise this lack of gender parity and fair representation too much. My party, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), for example, respects the principle of alternation - a man follows a woman - on our electoral lists, also for the European Parliament elections in May. We clearly want to empower women in politics!
What message would you share with women in culture today?
My message does not only concern women in culture, but women in general. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a famous American historian of early America and the history of women, once said: 'Well-behaved women seldom make history'. As we can observe a backlash in women’s rights in several countries, also in Europe, it definitely is time to renew Mrs Ulrich’s call for women to push boundaries, to challenge power relationships and to fundamentally change the world to the better.
Women should be more demanding, more explicit, more self-assured than ever.
What initiatives do you think are effective in advocating for women across professional spheres?
First, we need to promote an open and unprejudiced dialogue. Our society must finally regard gender-equality more as a chance than a burden. Second, we have to remove structural barriers. In the political sphere, we need to promote gender parity through quotas and electoral lists following the principle of alternation, as they have proved to be the most effective tools. In the economic sphere, we finally have to approve the 'Women on Boards' directive that the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament are advocating for. Third, besides from regulatory intervention, we should highlight more female role models and foster women’s networking and mentoring opportunities. Men are known for helping men. Women should do the same!
Who (or what) inspires you?
To me, all the shortcomings regarding gender-equality in politics, society and economy are already more than enough inspiration to keep pushing for equal rights for women. Finally, I would say that all people fighting for gender equality or - more generally - a better world inspires me.
Want more? Visit our exhibition Pioneers which highlights the lives and achievements of historical European women. Visit the full list of profiles for the Women in Culture and Tech series - we publish three profiles per week throughout March.