Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo Presents New Book on Feminism
April 11, 2019
On April 10, American University Washington College of Law welcomed Alexander De Croo, deputy prime minister of Belgium, to speak about his new book, The Age of Women: Why Feminism Also Liberates Men. In the book, De Croo makes the case for more gender equality in the workplace and society as a whole.
Dean Camille Nelson welcomed attendees and special guests, and introduced American University President Sylvia M. Burwell.
“If we are to be serious about our future, it is imperative that women are fully included,” said Dean Nelson. “As exciting and inspiring as this book is, we are joined by some of the most outstanding leaders whose presence today is not only a testament to how far we have come, but also a vivid reminder for all of us, and especially our aspiring students, that while the road ahead may seem too long, it is in your reach through your tenacity, determination, savvy, and courage.”
Burwell, the first woman president of American University, also welcomed the evening’s panelists and spoke of the challenges of gender equality, stating that “We must work together, across the globe, if we want to see ahead of the mountains” and push forward with the goals of understanding and inclusion.
The panel discussion featured Kakenya Ntaiya, founder of Kakenya Center for Excellence; Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, chair of the executive board of Women Political Leaders, Global Forum and former Minister of the Interior of Iceland; Sandie Okoro, senior vice president and general counsel of the World Bank; Melanne Verveer, former Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues; and moderator of the event Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
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Ntaiya began with a personal story of growing up in Kenya and overcoming the challenges of being raised in a community where women had no voice and no place, except in the home. While her father allowed her to go to school, she was engaged at age 5, and was expected to become a wife and mother. Overcoming adversity, Ntaiya was able to get a scholarship to study at a university in the United States, and in 2009 founded the Kakenya Center for Excellence, a boarding school for girls that empowers and educates girls to dream of a place outside the home, end harmful traditional practices of female genital mutilation, and uplifts her community.
De Croo, one of three co-founders and a champion of the global She Decides-movement, spoke of the growing evidence that women's leadership in political decision-making processes improve them. Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women's caucuses and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, gender-equality laws, and electoral reform.
While admitting that he is “an imperfect advocate,” De Croo has been outspoken about the inequity of women leaders in business and politics, and has proposed that governments around the world set quotas that require a percentage of leadership roles to be filled by women. “It is seen as if women take a step forward, that men need to take a step back… This is not true – when you have a better balance between women and men, we will have a better balance of ourselves.” He challenged the men in the room to not just stand on the sidelines, but to be an actor in helping to achieve this change.
In their remarks, both Nelson and De Croo referenced the Washington College of Law’s founding mother’s – Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett – who, over 120 years ago founded a law school at a time when women were generally excluded from the legal profession. The founders believed that lawyers, and women especially, had a crucial role to play in the development of society, business, government, and individual freedoms.
In addition, the law school had the pleasure of welcoming Ambassador Dirk Wouters, Embassy of Belgium; Peter Moors, chief of cabinet to the deputy prime minister of Belgium; and Sarah Vanhullebus, advisor to the deputy prime minister of Belgium.
The book launch was presented by AUWCL’s Program on International Organizations, Law and Development; the Embassy of Belgium; the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union; and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
For more information on the “quota for female leaders,” read this recent article in The Washington Post.