Dear Chiara (Corazza),
Thank you for your invite to this impressive gathering.
All of you who are connected today have an amazing story to tell. A story of hard work, and of success.
Some of you were the first woman in your family to get a degree. Others were the first woman CEO in your company. Or the first woman president in your country. None of you were naturally expected in your roles. You all had to fight to get there. You had to defy conventions, traditions and overcome obstacles of all kinds. And a lot of you had to fight and work harder than your male colleagues.
We all know, this simply shouldn't be the case. We all want to start and advance on a level playing field. It makes me feel bad that we even have to say that, in 2020.
The pandemic has made some of these obstacles and unbalances more visible. Women have a much higher risk to lose their job because of this crisis. It's twice as high compared to men. Because many women have more precarious jobs.
But in some cases, it's because they have to take care of their children full-time. Hardly anyone looks in the direction of the fathers. The UN warned that “the pandemic could set back women's rights by decades”. But there is nothing inevitable in this. This crisis is once again also an opportunity to rethink old patterns and behaviours.
Let's use these times of disruption to push for positive change all across our economies.
I'm thankful that this Women's forum has been pushing exactly for that. You're bringing to the table thinkers and doers from across the world. We have to grasp this opportunity to make change happen by design.
Let us create a more sustainable and liveable world! And let us self-confidently point out the important role that women play on this path. Not because women are better than men per se. But they are different. And their views matter. Simply because we can achieve more sustainable solutions for this world if men and women work together on the same level.
As you probably know, the European Union, developed a €750 billion recovery plan called NextGenerationEU. We don't just want to repair our economy, but to prepare it for the future.
We want a green recovery.
More than one third of our investment will finance our European Green Deal objectives. Big resources will go into flagship projects such as Hydrogen valleys, a renovation wave for our buildings, and the installation of one million charging points for electric cars. Europe will raise its climate ambition, because it's vital for our planet and it's good for our economy.
We also want a digital recovery. And we will invest 20% of NextGenerationEU in this. We want to bring high-speed connectivity to every corner of the European Union. During the crisis we have learned how important this is. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from investments in artificial intelligence and a European data economy. Europe wants to shape the digital transformation.
But most importantly, a true recovery has to be inclusive. And this will only happen if women enjoy the very same opportunities as men. This is why we will put a special focus on digital skills. Every man and woman should be equally fit to contribute in the economy of the future.
The EU will for instance invest in programs that will encourage more girls and women towards STEM education. Most green and digital jobs are STEM jobs. Good news is, that in Europe by now,
41% of scientists and engineers are women. But when you look at workers in high-tech manufacturing, four out of five are men. So still a long way to go.
In raising my daughters, I have always told them there is no such thing as “jobs for men” and “jobs for women”. Some of Europe's best scientists and engineers are women. The Italian team that recently discovered water on Mars is led by a woman, Elena Pettinelli. This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Emmanuelle Charpentier for her ground-breaking research on genome.
The STEM-key initiative, which you have launched, is great. Our recovery plan will invest in the next generation of European women in STEM. If not now, then when?
This also means that women and men in the jobs market should enjoy the very same rights and opportunities. This does not always have to be done with a rebuking finger. Sometimes even clever incentives are enough.
When I was family minister in my home country, Germany, I introduced incentives for fathers
to take at least two months of parental leave after the birth of a child. Today, more than a third of German fathers take time with their baby at home. And they love it. It gives the mother the opportunity to resume her career. And it paves the way for an equal partnership with reconciliation of work and family for both parents.
In the last five years only, nine more EU countries have either created or extended paternity leave. The latest to do so was France, just a few weeks ago. This is the way. Maternity and paternity should never perceived as being alternative to having a career.
We can change culture and customs in all our societies. With the right laws, and yes, with the right role-models as you are. This kind of change can take time.
When I was elected President of the European Commission, I promised that my Commission would be the first gender-balanced one in our history. We asked every European country to present a man and a woman as candidates for each post. It wasn't easy. But today as the first female President of the European Commission I lead a team of 14 men and 13 women. Everything can change, with a bit of perseverance.
There is something I have learnt in twenty years of politics. Leadership is very often about finding the silver lining in every cloud. Today, the world is in the middle of a storm. But with the right steer, we can design a fair recovery for all, and a more inclusive world.
You can count on me, as I know I can count on you.
It is a time for change.
Let's make it happen, together.