Polish women are one of the highest-ranking officials in the European Union.  “To make a career here, you have to understand one thing” – Forbeswomen

– When we were settling here, we had colleagues from other departments coming out every day to enjoy the panoramic views – he laughs. In fact, its office is the highest European Union office in the city. From here you can see the farthest corners of the suburbs of Brussels. However, Agneshka usually focuses her eyes on Excel spreadsheets and invoices, tracking errors in the deepest corners of the EU's finances. -I can audit any unit of the European Commission, all EU agencies, but also, for example, the European External Action Service, the European Atomic Energy Community or the European Prosecutor's Office. I advise them on financial and organizational matters and prepare recommendations. “I am here to play the role of the conscience of the European Commission, and I care about what can be improved,” he says.

Three Agnieszkas and Magda

Agnieszka Kaźmierczak manages the work of 151 internal auditors at the European Commission, and is currently one of the top three Polish women in the official EU hierarchy. The other two are Magda Kupczynska, Director-General for Mobility and Transport at the European Commission, and Agnieszka Walter-Dropp, Director-General for Logistics and Interpretation at the European Parliament. Until recently, Poland had another Director General – responsible for communications and information in the Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, which is like the brain of the EU – answered Agnieszka Bartol-Sorel. However, she resigned from her EU position in February this year. She accepted the nomination for the position of Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Chancellery. He will be responsible for economic and legal issues related to the Union and for the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2025.

Apart from the three highest-ranking officials, many Polish women work as middle-level managers – directors and managers, and work more in EU institutions as assistants, advisors, translators and others. However, there are no official statistics by which one can know the number of Polish women working in EU institutions. All we know is that there could definitely be more of us. Reports by the European Commission – the largest employer among EU institutions – on the application of the principle of geographical balance among employees show that Poland is underrepresented in terms of the expected number of employees, especially at senior levels. After Romania, we are the only country that uses employment quotas less. Given the population, we can fill more than 8 percent. Official positions in the European Commission, yet we only hold about 5% of them there. The reasons are multiple. However, almost everyone points to the more important issues: the lack of sustained political and institutional support from the country and the lack of a strong, efficiently functioning national network.

Support isn't everything

However, support from the country of origin is only an addition. At the same time, this is much more important in the European Parliament, where politics matter more than in the Commission. – You can make a career there primarily by building your position as an expert in your field, proving that you can get along with people and that you understand the culture of cooperation in the EU – says Agnieszka Kaźmierczak.

He explains that the greatest opportunities for professional advancement at the highest levels are the presence of people who understand what is in the interest of the federation as a whole. You have to show that you understand how the European body works and see the connections between what is happening in it at different levels. This allows communication across sectors and means you are a relatable person. – This is of fundamental importance for your career, because in the Authority, rotation in the boards of directors is mandatory – every six to seven years you have to change the general directorate in which you work. “So you have to be very open-minded, versatile, able to look holistically and learn quickly,” says the Polish director.

People with the spirit of a diplomat also feel like a fish out of water in the EU institutions, who quickly figure out what the formal and informal paths are and how to follow them, people who realize that it is not worth surprising their colleagues with ideas that before they come out when taking up a topic, you talk about it in Public first, feels what others think, and builds informal alliances. You need to master the winning strategy and be confident in compromises.

– One of the unwritten rules is that in the committee we never go to extremes. If two general managers do not agree on an issue, we do not write emails to each other, exchange arguments, but two general managers sit down and come to an agreement – explains Agnieszka. He points out that there are no quotas in general directorates, so each country must fight to have its representatives there. Not to get a good place in statistics, but because it has a very practical dimension: officials represent the way of thinking and point of view of the country they come from. The more members a given Member State has of the Union, the more likely its position will be understood and its interests taken into account in EU policy.

It is not surprising that countries that understand well how the European Union works are exerting strong and systematic pressure to get as many of their officials as possible to work in directorates-general and commissioners' offices.

We are far from the Italians

– Reaching a position is one thing, but staying in it, adapting and climbing to the top is another thing. This would not be possible without a good network of contacts. That's why communication is invaluable in EU institutions, says Agnieszka Walter-Dropp, Director General for Logistics and Interpretation at the European Parliament. The Pole manages 600 employees and about 1.5 thousand freelancers who collaborate in organizing approximately 22,000 meetings held annually in the European Parliament.

After walking its halls for several minutes, I had no doubt that everyone there knew her. As we sat in the parliamentary cafeteria, Agnieszka told me about the attempts she and her colleagues are making to build communication among Polish women working in EU institutions. – We do not meet regularly, but we increasingly exchange information about what is happening in our political groups or directorates, discuss emerging projects, exchange experiences and information about possible vacancies – says Agnieszka. She adds that Polish women still have a lot to learn in order to behave like Germans, French, Spaniards and, above all, like Italians, who have no equal in EU networks.

Ladder development

Robert Biedron admits that Polish women who hold senior positions in the European Parliament could be more supportive. – If they want to play an important role in EU politics, they need to support each other more. It is not always visible. Maybe they are afraid of losing their hard-earned space? To break this vicious circle, we need strong women who, instead of quickly collapsing the ladder behind them, will quickly expand it so that other Polish women can climb it, says the head of the Commission on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.

Building support networks doesn't just happen professionally. This is facilitated by living in specific areas – in Brussels, some of the most preferred addresses are Woluwe Saint-Lambert and Woluve Saint-Pierre, where children are sent to the same schools or membership in specific clubs – such as The Nine Club in the European area is very popular. Among Europeans. Schomanki, as Polish women working in EU institutions are sometimes called in Brussels society, is slowly discovering this.

*After Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the European Union. The most important European Union institutions are located in Brussels around the roundabout that bears his name.

  • 18 Polish women In the European Parliament, they constitute less than 35 percent. Our national team. This places Poland in 17th place in terms of the number of women in the European Parliament, far behind Finland and Sweden, where the presence of women in the national representation of the European Parliament exceeds 50%.
  • 3 Polish women Headed the delegations of the European Parliament: Magdalena Adamović headed the delegation for relations with South Africa, Danuta Hubner – headed the delegation for relations with the United States, and Jadwiga Wisniewska – headed the delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Caribbean and the European Union.
  • 1 polka dance: Ewa Kopacz – Member of the Presidium of the European Parliament as one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, Roberta Metzola.
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