Brussels, 15 June 2009
Challenges for equality between women and men in a time of change
The European Commission will address the issue of gender equality in a time of economic crisis during a conference in Brussels on 15 and 16 June 2009 . The two-day conference will bring together representatives from the European institutions, notably Vice-President Wallström and Commissioner Špidla; representatives from national governments and equality bodies, European social partners and civil society to identify future priorities in the field of gender equality.
"One woman in three will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in her lifetime; and as a consequence, communities are shattered. Rape rips apart the very fabric of society, leaving the vast majority of women broken, scarred, and fighting for their lives, said Margot Wallström, Vice President of the Commission, responsible for inter-institutional relations and communication strategy . "Rape has become a weapon of mass destruction; a strategy of war. This is unacceptable and I welcome today's discussions in trying to address this issue."
"In today’s economic climate, gender equality is more important than ever," said Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. "We have made real progress but the current economic slowdown creates new challenges for the EU. The economic downturn has affected men more severely than women, reflecting the fact that many of the sectors hardest hit employ a predominantly male workforce. This has reversed the historic gap between women and men, with the male unemployment rate starting to exceed the female rate for the first time. Still women generally earn less than men. Gender equality policies are part of the answer to the crisis. Now more than ever, we need to make the best use of all our human resources, both women and men."
The conference will also take stock of the achievements of the Commission's current Roadmap for equality between women and men, adopted in 2006 and coming to an end next year. Its objective is to identify future priorities in the field of gender equality to prepare the Commission's future strategy on equality between women and men. The conference will provide the opportunity to verify with all stakeholders if the objectives in the current roadmap are still valid and to what extent they will have to be complemented by new objectives and priorities.
Despite overall progress on gender equality, significant gaps still remain in several areas. Women represent 59% of all new university graduates. Nevertheless, across the EU economy, women earn on average 17% less than men.
More women (31.2%) work part-time than men (7.7%) and they predominate in sectors where wages are lower (more than 40% of women work in health, education and public administration – twice as many as men). Women occupy fewer positions of responsibility; they are highly under-represented in economic decision-making and in European politics. Due to the fact that many more women are in precarious jobs, they are more at risk of poverty than men. Also they are the principal victims of violence.
More information on gender equality:
Pay gap campaign website:
2009 annual report on equality between women and men:
Women in European Politics - time for action:
Video News release: Fighting the gender pay gap in Europe
Video News release: Women to the top