Did you know that in the private sector a woman doing the same job as a man can earn as much as 25% less? Look around you – how many organisations have women in high-ranking positions?
Many women across Europe live with this frustrating reality. Certainly, Europeans are aware of gender discrimination – 40% regard it as widespread. Equal though they may be in the eyes of the law, economically speaking, women are definitely the weaker sex.
"We cannot accept this in today's democratic society", says equal opportunities commissioner Vladimír Špidla. "We must break the glass ceiling – that a woman cannot rise in management – once and for all". To celebrate International Women's Day, he will be meeting some of his female colleagues – commissioners Danuta Hübner, Neelie Kroes, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Meglena Kuneva and Viviane Reding – to talk about “women in politics: progress and challenges".
Legal action is not enough in this European year of equal opportunities – we need to quash stereotypes. Men need to become more involved in family responsibilities, and Europe needs more flexible working arrangements and childcare services. Women should have the same opportunities as their male colleagues. No more, no less.
To promote gender equality, the EU is organising a string of events from 6‑8 March. Viviane Reding, one of eight women in the 27-member EU commission, will be discussing the role of women in IT. Other high-ranking figures attending the European Women exhibition include German chancellor Angela Merkel and commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
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