Elisabeth Gehrer
Elisabeth Gehrer

Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Elisabeth Gehrer

Political Development

1. What made you decide to go into politics?
I was asked by the party leader of the city of Bregenz in1979 if I was prepared to become a member of the municipal council. And I said "yes".

2. Do/did you have a role model?
Dr. Martin Burtscher - the former head of the regional government of Vorarlberg.

3. Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics - e.g. in a citizens' rights, parents or other initiatives? What were important experiences you made?
Not really. I have only been a member of the boy scouts of Vorarlberg for more than 20 years. I also served as a member of the parish council and of the parents association (Elternverein) in my children's school.

4. Have there been any interruptions in the course of your party political career and what was behind them?
No, my career went smoothly. I started my political career in 1980 as a member of the Municipal Council of Bregenz. I was responsible for music and regional cooperation for 10 years. In 1984 I was elected a member of the Regional Parliament (Landtag) of Vorarlberg and in 1989 I was appointed Vice-president of this regional parliament. The following year, in 1990, I became the first female member of the Regional Government of Vorarlberg, holding a portfolio for schools, continuing education, science, women, youth, family, local development and foreign aid. In 1995 I was appointed Federal Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs. In 2000 the responsibility of the ministry was widened. I am now Minister for Education, Science and Cultural affairs. Since 1995 I am Deputy Chairperson of the ÖAAB (Österreichischer Angestellten und Arbeitnehmerbund) and since 1999 also Deputy Chairperson (Stellvertretende Vorsitzende) of the ÖVP (Österreichische Vokspartei).

5. Did your objectives change during your political career?
I started my political career at the regional level, now I am working at the national level. The themes and responsibilities are very similar, but the basic pattern of my work have changed. Only regional development is no longer on the agenda.

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Party Affiliation

1. What was your motivation to join a political party?
I was asked to join and said "Yes" because I wanted to take responsibility for the development of the community.

2. Which party do you belong to? Since when?
Since 1979 I am a member of the ÖVP.

3. Does your party have an equal opportunities regulation?
Yes, there is a 33,3% quota applied to all levels - local, regional and national. The party developed a monitoring system to assess the implementation of this requirement.

4. Did you have any mentors inside the party?
Yes, many. I had both male and female mentors. I would rather not name them because there are so many, I cannot mention them all.

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Profession/ Current priorities

1. In what respect is your profession linked to your political activity?
I am a teacher by profession, so there is clearly a link to my work as Minister for Education.

2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I am a primary school teacher and also a mother of three children and a wife.

3. What kind of jobs have you done?
I have worked for five years as a teacher in primary schools in Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

4. Are you linking both your professional and your political career?
It is impossible, I have no more time for teaching. To be a politician is a full-time profession, and now I am a politician. Political work is a work for the human beings.

5. In which areas do you see your special competencies?
My special competencies are to master open planning processes. I am not afraid to make decisions.

6. What are your political priorities?
To improve the school system in Austria, to modernise the university system and to give the teachers more self-esteem.

7. Main fields of action?
School affairs, science, culture as well as protection of historic buildings and museums.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

1. What objectives do you aim to attain through your political activity?
There are several. I will start a campaign for ICT and Internet literacy for all pupils and students. The budget for this campaign is about one milliard ATS. I will also launch an initiative for foreign language learning, try to achieve full legal responsibility for universities and push for the development of advanced technological colleges.

2. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
The introduction of quotas had an enormous impact on the equal opportunities situation. My aim is to reach a participation rate of women in politics of about 52%, exactly like the female share of the population.
There are many things to be done if you want to make equal opportunities a reality in daily life and everywhere. You have to start in schools, I have implemented 99 equal opportunities projects in schools. Another aspect in this discussion are vocational choices of young people which are up to 80% influenced by the parents.

3. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
No, not in political live, women get much more self-confident. Men accept this development.

4. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
They need to take on responsibility for the community, they are ready for community commitment, without asking what the advantages are.

5. What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
I have too many official functions, I have to learn to say "no".

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