Brussels, 21 September 2010
Giving Europe a female touch: European Commission adopts new strategy on gender equality
The European Commission adopted today a five-year strategy for promoting equality between women and men in Europe. The strategy aims in particular to make better use of women's potential, thereby contributing to the EU's overall economic and social goals. It translates the principles set out in the European Commission's Women's Charter (see IP/10/237) into specific measures, ranging from getting more women into company boardrooms to tackling gender-based violence. Meanwhile, a new Eurobarometer survey shows 87% of Europeans support EU action to tackle domestic violence. One out of four knows someone who has been a victim of such violence.
"Europe has led the world by example in terms of gender equality by including the principle of equal pay for equal work into the Treaty of Rome in 1957. We can do this again today regarding the participation of women in decision-making and the fight against gender-based violence," said Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "To get the engine of growth going again, Europe should make better use of women's talents. I have not been an advocate of quotas for women in senior business posts in the past, but given the lack of progress in this area, we might in the future have to consider taking initiatives at the European level. I plan to meet with the chief executives of major publicly listed European companies in spring 2011 to discuss the situation and the scope for determined self-regulation. Depending on the outcome of this dialogue with industry, I will consider whether further initiatives will be necessary in 2012."
The gender equality strategy adopted by the European Commission today spells out a series of actions based around five priorities: the economy and labour market; equal pay; equality in senior positions; tackling gender violence; and promoting equality beyond the EU. They include:
Getting more women into the labour market and helping to reach the Europe 2020 target employment rate of 75% overall for women and men. (see IP/10/225);
Putting forward targeted initiatives to get more women into top jobs in economic decision-making;
Promoting female entrepreneurship and self employment;
Instituting an annual European Equal Pay Day to raise awareness of the fact that women continue to earn an average of nearly 18% less than men across the EU;
Working together with all Member States in combating violence against women, especially eradicating female genital mutilation in Europe and beyond.
The Commission will also set up a yearly top-level Gender Equality Dialogue involving the European Parliament, the Council presidencies, European social partners and civil society to assess progress in implementing the strategy.
The EU’s achievements in fostering equality between women and men have helped improve the lives of many European citizens. There are some encouraging recent trends: more women are in the labour market (approaching 60% on average in the EU, up from 52% in 1998) and education and training have been improved. Young women (20-24) represent 59% of university graduates in the EU (see annex).
However, gender gaps remain in many areas. In the labour market, women are still over-represented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions. Parenthood keeps female employment rates down: female entrepreneurs make up only 33.2% of the self-employed. In addition, women also continue to work more unpaid hours than men at home.
Gender-based violence remains an issue. A recent Eurobarometer survey measured how domestic violence against women is perceived by the public. 26,800 citizens were interviewed in February and March 2010 in all 27 EU Member States. The survey follows a previous Eurobarometer conducted in 1999 in the then 15-Member State EU.
Press pack including:
Communication on the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015)
Annex: Actions to implement the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015)
Background document accompanying the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015)
Special Eurobarometer 344: Domestic violence against women – full report
Special Eurobarometer 344: Domestic violence against women – country factsheets
Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:
European Commission Report "More women in senior positions – Key to economic stability and growth", p.21.