March 8, 2021

International Women’s Day Special – Interview with EYP Alumnae Sophie Hall and Zahra Runderkamp

At EYP, we #ChooseToChallenge gender inequalities which persist in society and motivate and empower young people of all genders to continue doing so. 

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, and ahead of the Alumni Talk: Women in Politics at 7 pm CET, 8th of March 2021, we had the pleasure to gain insights from two EYP Alumnae working in politics and diplomacy:  

  • Zahra Runderkamp is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focusses on the representation of women and ethnic minorities in politics and the representation of these politicians in the media.
  • Sophie Hall started in EYP Switzerland in 2009 and was active for 7 years, including as BNC Coordinator and finally Chair of the Governing Body. After studying Comparative Social Policy with a focus on women’s labour market participation, she went to Brussels, where she currently works as Private Secretary to the German Ambassador to the EU.

Which barriers do you and other young women face (this can be in your daily life, skills development, access to opportunities)?  

Zahra: “Politics is still a male-dominated environment, but it is so important that women are entering politics: not just for the quality of decision-making but also to change the face of politics on the longer term. On International Women’s Day we want to put the spotlight on this important topic within the EYP community and discuss women in politics and public administration. A topic close to us as EYP community. 

Sophie: “Thankfully, there are fewer and fewer visible barriers to young women in a professional setting – thanks to the work of a huge number of people before us. But there are still deep structural issues which are often hard to identify in our individual lives – and therefore to call out – but make inequalities very hard to shake: different socialised behaviours, unconscious biases, different valuation (and payment!) of traditionally male and female jobs and in particular, the still totally unequal distribution of care responsibility between men and women.

All these are also ten times worse for women who also face other disadvantages; minorities, women with disabilities, trans women…” 

How can we challenge and overcome them?  

Zahra: “Celebrating International Women’s Day helps to showcase the importance of the topic. In this webinar, we will touch upon how far we have come in the past 100 years – but also how much there is left to do.  

Sophie: “I think first and foremost we need recognition that inequality isn’t just bad for women but for society as a whole, and that where we are now is nowhere near good enough. In the long term, I think it will also take having people – of all genders – raised with different ideas about how we share care responsibilities, which professional fields feel open to their gender and who can take leadership roles. Projects like EYP which encourage people to take on leadership roles but also actively reflect team dynamics and their own leadership are a great forum for that.”

What would you say to women all around the world who are confronted with the same barriers? 

Sophie: “I think it’s important that we don’t just put the onus on women to overcome barriers – we’re talking about deep-rooted, systemic issues which no individual, male of female, can fix alone. Nobody lives in a vacuum!” 

Zahra: “This year on International Women’s Day we celebrate especially women’s leadership. To them I would say: keep leading and keep trailblazing! And keep speaking up for an equal future. But I would say the same to men, too! 

How can EYP help challenge these?  

Zahra: “We know role models are important for the political ambition of adolescents. Especially because visible female role models help young women talk about politics at home and this has positive effects for their engagement in the future. This is certainly something also EYP can contribute to: We can help making these role models visible, by inviting them as experts, guest speakers, and so on. And many of them are already there: as EYP chairs, presidents and journalists.  

Sophie: “I think EYP has several really great strengths here: I don’t think I ever experienced a political youth organisation with as many women involved and in leadership roles. But a lot of the skills it encourages and values in all its leaders – sensitive feedback, emotional intelligence, awareness of group dynamics – are things which are often considered female skills. I think as an organisation it has a very progressive and inclusive leadership culture which people can and do carry into their later professional lives.” 

To find out more about the importance and status quo of gender equality in politics, register for today’s #AlumniTalk by 6 pm here.