Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. It concerns us all. It is a fundamental right as well as an internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goal. Having gender balance in politics and in the workplace is an essential feature of stable and transparent democracies. It not only encourages economic development but also promotes overall well-being and leads to a more inclusive and fair Europe for both women and men.
So what is gender equality?
Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.
How is gender equality measured?
Gender equality is measured by looking at the representation of men and women in a range of roles. The European Union statistical office, Eurostat, publishes an overview of gender statistics for the European Union from fields such as education, the labour market, earnings and health, important for showing differences in the situation of women and men.
The EU and its Member States are supported by the European Institute for Gender Equality in their efforts to promote gender equality and to raise awareness about gender equality issues. The Institute supports EU Presidencies in developing the Beijing indicators. It also developed the Gender Equality Index, which provides a synthetic measure of gender equality in EU Member States.
What is the situation with gender equality in Europe?
Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. It goes back to 1957 when the principle of equal pay for work of equal value became part of the Treaty of Rome. Over the past few decades, the EU has notably worked for:
- equal treatment legislation;
- gender mainstreaming (integration of a gender perspective into all policies);
- specific measures for the advancement of women.
The Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019 establishes the Commission’s work programme in terms of gender equality for the 2016-2019 period. It is a comprehensive framework outlining the Commission’s commitment to promote gender equality in all its policies as well as into EU funding programmes. The Commission has defined the following priority areas for action:
- equal economic independence for women and men;
- equal pay for work of equal value;
- equality in decision-making;
- dignity, integrity and ending gender-based violence; and
- promoting gender equality beyond the EU.
The strategic engagement highlights the contribution of gender equality to economic growth and sustainable development and continues to corroborate the 2011-2020 European Pact for gender equality.
Gender equality and the fight to counter all types of discrimination against women lies at the core of the European Union's treaties: it is included in articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty on European Union (principle of the equality between men and women), in articles 8 and 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which stipulates that the Union - in all of its actions, ensures the respect of equality between men and women, the European Council and Parliament - as part of its ordinary legislative procedure can take steps in this sense, as well as in article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, notably in terms of wages and work.
One of the main problems with gender inequality worldwide is the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap is defined as the relative difference in the average gross earnings of women and men within the economy as a whole. Equal pay for equal work is one of the European Union’s founding principles. Every year the Commission marks the European Equal Pay Day with Europe-wide information activities to reach out to Member States on the link between pay, earnings and pension entitlements in old age. European Equal Pay Day draws attention to the size and general inertia of the gender pay gap, as well as its underlying causes.
During my professional career, I faced inequality when I discovered that I was paid less than my male colleague for the same job at the same position in the same company, and I know that many women around the world face this problem. And I am glad that currently the world, and in particular Europe, focus on the problem of gender inequality and on the ways to solve it, because a developed and progressive society is impossible without equal rights and equal opportunities for all people regardless of their gender.