MEPs held a formal sitting on 8 March 2011 to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day - started in 1911.
European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek used the debate to pay tribute to women involved in the revolutions in north Africa.
Meanwhile Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said European women "set an example" to the rest of the world.
A number of MEPs said companies should introduce quotas to increase female employment, but British conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis described this as "patronising".
She also hit out at the practice of giving every female MEP a rose as they entered the chamber, as part of International Women's Day.
She handed hers to a male colleague.
Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work