Skip to main site content.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attends the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting on July 3, 2019, in Berlin. (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

Congrats

Ursula von der Leyen nominated as first female European Commission president

By WITW Staff on July 3, 2019

European leaders have proposed naming German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission, The Washington Post reports, which would make her the first woman to fill the European Union’s top post.

The European Parliament will need to give final approval for von der Leyen, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to take the helm. As the leader of the European Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., von der Leyen would be empowered to make trade deals, negotiate Brexit, and propose and enforce E.U. regulations.

At the Women in the World Summit in London in 2015, von der Leyen spoke with Tina Brown about women in leadership, saying she doesn’t believe in the idea of “toxic testosterone” or the notion that there would be less global dysfunction if more women were in power. Rather, she said, she believes in diversity and the need for a mix of thinkers and leaders. “Women are not better, just different,” she said. “If society is smart, it will harness diversity.”

European leaders also nominated International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde to helm the European Central Bank, the Post reports, which would give that institution is first female head as well.

Lagarde has also spoken about women in leadership at the Women in the World Summit, saying onstage in New York in 2016 that women need “skin as thick as an old crocodile” to get to the top. “But then I very much hope that we can take off the crocodile skin and be normal human beings, without having to shield against horrible attacks, below-the-belt punches, and all this crappy stuff, frankly, that abounds at the moment.”

Speaking to reporters after the announcement of the nominations this week, Merkel said, “We believe that this is a good group of people that we have nominated. It is a good thing that for the very first time a woman is going to hold that,” she said of the top post at the European Commission. “I welcome that, irrespective of any country or party considerations on my part.”

As defense minister, von der Leyen has been a tough advocate for Germany and NATO, the Post reports. She has pushed for more defense spending at home and has promoted the value of diplomacy and multilateralism abroad. She has also come under fire for the state of the Germany military, which suffers from underinvestment and neglect.

Watch video of von der Leyen speaking with Brown at the Women in the World Summit in London in 2015:

 

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Related

Defense minister and mother to seven Ursula von der Leyen shares some hard-won wisdom

Christine Lagarde: Women need “skin as thick as an old crocodile” to get to the top

Meet the first woman to lead a U.S. Army infantry division