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Interview with Lena Jäger and Daniela Diesner -Women's referendum 2.0 (Austria)

Updated: Jul 4, 2023




About Ms. Lena Jäger:

Chairwoman and founder of the Association for Women’s and Gender Equality Policy. She has been part of it since 2016. Spokesperson. During the last years she has been analyzing the increasing social inequality due to Covid19.


About Ms. Daniela Diesner:

Chairwoman. Joined the Association for Women’s and Gender Equality Policy in August 2018. She has been a board member since December 2019. She has been working in the F*VB and #KeinenMillimeter social media teams. She studies political science and works at Ö1 in the field of communication.


Gender Equality Statistics:

Gender Development Index: 0.980

Gender Inequality Index: 0.053



 

Complete Interview With Ms. Daniela Jager and Ms. Lena Diesner


Jennifer Campbell

Are there currently any attempts being made by the government to increase gender equality? Is this something they are concerned about or even something that gets brought up at all?


Daniela Diesner

Our government is not doing a lot concerning gender equality - we have a ministry who has that responsibility but does nothing. There are symbolic things, but that is all.

We have a 50% pension gap and there have been a growing number of femicides during last year, so the situation is getting worse and worse.


Lena Jäger

Yes, I am working with the ministry of health and my minister is the one in the government who speaks more about women’s topics such as violence against women. This is, in fact, a very sad situation. Our organization told the government that they have to invest more money to fight male violence against women. The lack of initiative to educate the young men in school and in kindergarten is also disappointing.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Does Austria have, in the past, gender ministers or ministries? If not, do you think that this is the moment to create it in Austria?


Daniela Diesner

We have a ministry for gender equality. The problem is that it is not a top priority ministry and does not have a lot of money compared to all the other ministries. At this time, under this government, the minister for gender equality is also the minister for integration. She has no expertise on women’s rights issues. There is not money for both things and she has to decide which topic gets more money. The minister herself says she is not a feminist, and obviously gender equality is not her priority.


Keaton Rannow

One of the nine demands of the women's referendum was calling for 50-50 representation in the political institutions. How do you think we will see the implementation of this goal being carried out? And what specific policies do you think are necessary in order to move this goal forward?


Daniela Diesner

Some parties are trying to apply this kind of strategy within their own parties, but they have not been successful yet.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Do you believe in quotas applied to political parties?


Daniela Diesner

Yes, we believe that quotas are important because representation matters. We have a women's rights ministry and she is not representing anyone, but we believe it is still important. Funds obtained by political parties should be closely related to the number of female (and all other intersections such as LGBTIQ+, migration, disability ect.) candidates.


Keaton Rannow

Why do you think that gender pay gaps exist despite explicit legislation prohibiting it? What steps can we as individuals take to remedy this gap, both as employers and employees?


Daniela Diesner

Austria has one of the highest gender pay gaps in Europe. The average pay gap in Europe is 16% and we have 20% so it is way above the average. It is quite a problem, but our government does not take any steps to combat this. We, in our organization, demand transparency so that everyone can see how much everyone earns. It is not an individual issue, it is a structural problem, and it needs a structural solution so the government needs to take the initiative.

There should be fines. For instance, if there is a company that pays a woman less than a man then there should be a fine for them.


Lena Jäger

Our organization demands that women and men should be worth the same. In fact, the work of women and men is not worth the same. That is even a cultural problem. I remember a lot of discussions with men and women on the street and they told me “Yeah, cooking and taking care is so easy everyone can do it.” But, so is repairing a bike. When you learn something as a child like cooking, or something else, then it is as easy as that. This is the problem. It hurts me so much when I meet women and girls that tell me that these things they are doing everyday are worthless than the things that their fathers do. This is what we have to eliminate.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Is this a problem of implementation, the implementation of the legislation passed by your parliament in Austria?


Lena Jäger

Yes, it is.


Jennifer Campbell

How usual is to discuss gender issues in Austria? Do news networks cover topics regarding it? Or is it something that people avoid?


Daniela Diesner

It is mostly feminsit organizations and activists who address the important topics. There is a feminist magazine too, but it is like a bubble, so readers are feminist. We also have a number of feminist journalists, not many.

In general, in the media, television and in the most important newspapers, feminist issues are not covered at all unless something terrible happens. When we had femicides, the media coverage was terrible, it did not help, just the opposite. In some cases, it even seemed to promote violence against women, using the wrong terms. They did a lot of victim blaming and therefore worsened it, instead of helping by calling out the system/structure behind it. There is an agreement in the Istanbul Convention, which Austria agreed to implement, regarding the way media should deal with these issues, but they do not follow the terms of that agreement. The press council, an institution, which should punish these kinds of reporting, seems to ignore it. It is only getting better because, we as activists did point that out. It is the feminist organizations, who are forced to do agenda setting by writing press releases or doing media actions so that feminist issues are being talked about publicly. Feminist issues luckily get more and more attention though, because of social media.


Lena Jäger

In Austria we have a public television station and a radio station. In fact, we have a new station, which is really progressive. This is very cool because I am German and the German public station is not as progressive as the one in Austria. The way they report femicides is positive. They are not only interested in the drama, their reporters also go farther in dealing with these situations.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Sometimes the attitude of the media is not the best because they are reproducing the stereotypes. Obviously it is something that we can find here in the United States, in other countries in Europe, and everywhere in the world. How can we change that? How can we change the fact that the media is not helping to change, but it reproduces those stereotypes? How can we change that without imposing anything because of course freedom of speech is essential in this case too?


Daniela Diesner

It is necessary to criticize them publicly, to make their audience/readers see the problem. In this situation it would be easier to work with the government.


Keaton Rannow

According to your website, 48.1% of women work part time but only ten percent of men. Is this discrepancy as a result of a patriarchal society, and if so, how do we solve the issue? By increasing the number of men working full time, decreasing women working part time, or both?


Daniela Diesner

Yes, it is patriarchy. We are demanding the implementation of a thirty-hour working week. This would help us to change the situation at home: both men and women would be able to do the unpaid housework together, and raise their kids together. Usually women work part time so that they can care for the children. It has very important consequences: women accumulate a much lower pension. In Austria the pension gap is 50%.


Lena Jäger

Obviously, other than the implementation of these important reforms, it is also important to educate males since they are very young. It is in their education where we can find the origin of these inequalities at home. This will be hard and slow, but we have and we can do it


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Do you have gender education in schools in Austria?


Daniela Diesner

Not really. It is a project but only that. And this is very important.


Grace Souza

Gender pay gap in Austria is 19.9%. Do you think there is any reasoning behind this other than a patriarchal society? Are men more educated than women? Or are they more likely to get a higher education like a university?


Daniela Diesner

No, according to the latest statistics, women are very educated and men are less educated. Job sectors/branches, where most of the employees are female, are generally being payed less, this is a huge problem. Therefore we damand a revaluation of work.


Lena Jäger

It’s not a question about their education background. It is very important to say that this is not a one woman’s problem, it is a problem of all women, it is a problem of our society. They often say that women are not good at fighting for themselves, fighting for money. We have to change this.


Daniela Diesner

It is even worse for women of color and immigrants. They are earning even less. Immigrant woman and ethnic minorities as well as disabled woman even face a higher discrimination when it comes to the job market. Those who hire, often white cis men, prefer to choose people who look like them, and who are like them.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

I would like to ask since you come from Germany, are those stereotypes different in Germany from those you are describing in the case of Austria?


Lena Jäger

They are similar, but the activists in Austria are more united. Austria is a very small country, but the feminists here are loud. In fact, 7.5% of people subscribed to our initiative. This is a lot and I think if you made the same initiative in Germany, we would get less support. This is the difference.


Hannah Sachs

I was wondering if you have faced any challenges in regards to approaching activism through social media? And, if you have, what have those challenges been and how you can manage them?


Lena Jäger

Social media was, and still is, very important for us. Social media is very important for all feminists. It has helped us to create an international community of feminist activists.


Daniela Diesner

I agree. Social media helps us to develop campaigns without a lot of money. Social media helps us to connect with a lot of people who are not part of our organization.


Lena Jäger

With social media, hate speech has also become a very serious problem affecting us individually or as part of our organization.


Daniela Diesner

On Facebook or Tiktok, people like Andrew Tate, can express sexist hate speech and be there for a long time. Many young guys can follow him, and Facebook will do nothing about it. We report many people who are sharing such sexist content, but as Facebook is not as feminist as it likes to pretend, it doesn't do anything about it, but banning female nippels.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Have you and your organization suffered from hate speech?


Lena Jäger

Personally, yes because I am a leasbian and this is a problem for many people. In my case it was a very dangerous and famous right-wing man, but I filed a case against him and I won.


Owen O’Connor

What impact does social media have on the fight for gender equality in Austria?


Lena Jäger

More people know our initiative. Nevertheless, to be on social media only is not enough. We like to campaign on the streets to attract not only young people, not only feminists, we want to talk with those who do not believe in gender equality.


Katie Lilley

Given your experience working in social media teams, do you think media has a more positive or negative role in impacting society?


Daniela Diesner

Both. For us, there has been always a balance.


Katie Lilley

How would you say the current situation in Austria compares to neighboring countries?


Daniela Diesner

There are European countries like Spain who are doing so many cool things right now. They are passing law after law which are close to what we have been dreaming of for Austria. Austrians are more accepting of the situation, so it's changing slower than in those countries. We are discussing certain demands publicly, but few initiatives are being implemented. The situation here is not very different from what we can find in other European countries. Concerning abortion rights for example, we can see similar developments/tendencies in most European/western countries, the same goes for the rise of right wing parties. The far right and anti-abortion activists have a huge global network. We have to do the same, we can only stop this by uniting globally.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

You are talking about Spain and how liberal the legislation they are passing is but everytime I go to Spain, I do not see a change in social attitudes. I mean the legislation is perfect but people are not reacting. What is more important: legislation or education in this case?


Daniela Diesner

If there is just legislation and not and education background, then it is not going to work. I totally agree it has to be together.


Lena Jäger

Yeah, we saw backlash coming from every social sector. It is not a question of education because you see it in families with high education.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Imagine if tomorrow you wake up and you realize you are the new prime minister in Austria. What is the first thing you would do with that power?


Lena Jäger

I would start with a better education.


Daniela Diesner

I would begin working to achieve gender equality based on an intersectional feminism approach. Feminism needs to be for everyone and especially stand up for those who suffer from multiple discriminations, such as migrant women, women of color, trans women, disabled women, lower-class women and the LGBTIQ+ community. For all those affected by patriarchy. And racism, classism, the gender binary, homophobia and ableism.


Sam

Thank you for joining us and giving us more information on the work you are doing in your country. Please, continue working hard and we hope to see the impacts you will have in your society.

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