Following her career as a pediatrician and public health researcher in Bulgaria and in the UK, Dr Parvanova started her political career when elected Member of the Bulgarian Parliament in 2001.
She became Member of the European Parliament in 2007, where she notably initiated and led a campaign on Patients' Rights in Europe.
She is an active Member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and she also seats within the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection as a substitute member.
Dr Parvanova is also a Member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, and coordinator for her political group on these issues. Throughout her professional and political activities, she has been actively involved in the Women's Rights debate, looking most particularly at societal and health related issues, at both national and EU levels.
What prompted you to choose a career in life sciences and then in politics?
My family, in particular my mother and grandmother supported me in choosing a medical career. As I started to practice and I became aware of the problems in the health system such as disability discrimination, I decided to follow other studies in public health and health policy. This led me to enter national politics as a member of the Bulgarian Parliament where I have been vice president of the committee on health and foreign affairs.
Women’s rights and gender equality are among one of your priorities in the European Parliament. What policies would you formulate to encourage women’s advancement in leadership positions?
We need to ensure that women are prepared to move up to careers that give them the chance to develop professionally as much as men. Now is the time to encourage women to gain qualifications in the large spectrum of “green” jobs and gain know-how about sectors such as renewable and clean energies or non-polluting technologies.
How do we make sure that women have the right role models?
Through campaigns disseminating best practices and allowing women with successful careers to speak with girls in their own environment, in schools, in universities, and in the community. Organizations dedicated to the promotion of women should take the responsibility of training women to improve the skills they need to step up in their professions and to learn how to make the best use of their strong points.
Would gender quota policies be an answer to the low representation of women in leadership positions?
Quota policies come with the risk of exposing women to criticism when the only criteria by which their work should be measured are the quality of their work and the results.
I don’t believe quota policies could lead to a gender-balanced representation, however if in the future EU Member States were to come up with two proposals when putting forward their candidates for the position of European Commissioner, one male and one female, this could for example set about how to offer equal opportunities to women and men with the same level of qualification.
What are the top 3 recommendations you would give to a young woman at the beginning of her career?
I would give the same recommendations that I give to my two daughters. Investing in their education and defending this investment is the most important thing they can do for themselves. A good educational background will help them make choices independently and self-assuredly, in their professional as well as in their social or personal lives.