Women’s Week: Region’s only female MEP Alex Mayer says people assume she is a man

MEP Alex Mayer

MEP Alex Mayer - Credit: Archant

“And now on the line we have MEP Alex Mayer and John Rogers ... good morning, gentlemen,” – this happens quite frequently when I do radio interviews, writes East of England MEP Alex Mayer.

I know “Alex” works for both men and women but I have this feeling the situation would not arise quite so often for a male politician called Alexander.

Of course, the EADT is great at knowing I’m female – hence inviting me to write this article!

So what is it like being the only female MEP in the region? I certainly love it. I know it is a huge honour and a privilege to represent the people of East Anglia; it is fascinating when I’m invited to meet people from different businesses, schools, universities or farming. It is great when I can vote to make people’s lives better like banning harmful chemicals from factories.

Most laws and campaigns affect both men and women but sometimes issues come up that especially affect women such as the very active WASPI women across our region campaigning for fair pensions, the tampon tax and how we can finally tackle the gender pay gap.

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Our area has a proud tradition of women in politics including Millicent Fawcett, tireless suffragist, and the physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who became the first female Mayor in England in Aldeburgh. I think they would be pleased that there are more female politicians but as disappointed as me that recently a Polish MEP burst into a sexist rant, shouting down one of my Italian colleagues, saying women should earn less than men because we are “weaker, smaller, and less intelligent”.

37% of MEPs are women, (compared with 32% in Westminster), so it certainly is not unusual to be a woman MEP but there is some way to go before reaching parity.

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The Labour Party does lead the way though and there are more Labour women MEPs than men. From time to time I do get mistaken for being an assistant while people think Peter from my office is the MEP – but I don’t let that put me off.

I would say to any women considering getting involved in politics that not letting things put you off is so important. There will be setbacks sometimes and horrible people on twitter, but do, give it a go. It’s great and you get to change the world.

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