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Women leading the way in Europe: conversation with Ana Gomes

March is the month of International Women’s Rights Day. It is therefore the perfect symbolic occasion to start sharing our team’s series of monthly interviews titled “Women Leading the Way in Europe.”

These are short but pertinent conversations with role models that are leading the way for gender equality in Europe. They were initially conceived as a celebration of the 5 year anniversary (already!) of the book “Women Leading the Way in Brussels” (co-authored by Claudia de Castro Caldeirinha and Corinna Hörst). The purpose of this series is to take stock of the last 5 years, both in terms of developments but also in terms of setbacks for women in leadership, to assess the present trends, and to provide a vision (and tips) for the coming years.

Our first guest is Ana Gomes, who had already been one of our chosen leaders to be featured in the book, where she said: ‘’I lead because I am a fighter and I tell the truth.’’

A diplomat, a politician of the Socialist Party who served as MEP for three mandates, and a Presidential candidate in Portugal in 2021, Ana Gomes made sure everyone whose person she crossed over the last decades knows her name. Formally retired, her voice is as powerful as always and freer than ever.

In our recent conversation, she inspiringly reaffirms: “my power comes from telling the truth”. Her engagement, ageless drive and sense of freedom are inspiring and captivating.

As she takes stock of the last 5 years, Ana highlights important positive developments in the EU, as the following:

  •   More women leading top EU institutions
  •   The first ever gender balanced College of European Commissioners
  •   An increased number of women Members of the European Parliament.
  •   Increased awareness and engagement (e.g. very active female networks and more male allies).
  •   Important policies and strategies (e.g. the EU Gender Equality strategy) and multiple resolutions passed in these last years (like the “Women on boards” Directive).

On the other hand, she observes worrying trends and denounces setbacks in terms of women’s rights, democracy and human rights. She passionately stresses that the rights and freedoms that were previously taken for granted by most Europeans are now in danger. Hence, she emphasises ‘’This is a time where we need to be prepared to fight” (for fundamental equality and democracy).

Throughout this short conversation, she leaves precious tips for women in leadership, and for all men and women who consider themselves democratic.

Here are five of these tips:

  1. No matter your age, if you have an opinion and/or the goal to change anything, you can be a leader. For example, a formally “retired woman” (like Ana) is freer and can use that freedom to make positive changes.
  2. Have the courage to challenge your superiors, if values and/or ethics are at stake. For Ana, remaining constructively critical is one of the best forms of democratic loyalty.
  3. Older leaders, of all genders, need to be savvy in communicating and empowering young people for the challenges ahead, and ensure the lessons of history are not forgotten.
  4. They should also continue to learn (including with your grandchildren…;-)…). Learning is fundamental at all ages!
  5. Every person should educate their boys and girls to learn and live in a way that is more aware, and freer from gender stereotypes and traditional roles. Starting with our families.

For all the reasons above and many more, we are honoured that this great lady is our first celebratory conversation. Obrigada, Ana Gomes!

If you want to know more about her experience and expertise, watch the full interview below.

And don’t hesitate to stay tuned for the upcoming interview in this series of talks!