Gender Equality: EU makes progress yet challenges still remain

Gender Equality: EU makes progress yet challenges still remain

Europe’s actions towards real gender equality lead to continuous yet unsteady and slow progress in most areas, according to the Progress report on equality between women and men in 2013 released by the European Commission on 14 April 2014.

The annual report shows progress and challenges in six priority areas: equal economic independence for women and men; equal pay for work of equal value; equality in decision-making; dignity, integrity and ending gender violence; promoting gender equality beyond the EU; and horizontal issues.

Women’s employment rate in the EU has increased to 63% from 58% in 2002, whereas men’s employment stands at 75%. There are, however, enormous differences between Member States. The female employment rate is lower than 60% in Greece, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Spain, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland while it is above 70% in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria and Estonia. The EU’s target employment rate is 75% for both women and men.

The report also shows that women are still less likely to hold senior positions in business and politics. They account for an average of 17.8% of the members of boards of directors in the largest publicly-listed companies, 2.8% of the Chief Executive Officers, 27% of senior government ministers, and 27% of members of national parliaments.

The pay gap still stagnates at 16.4% Europe-wide. The European Commission stepped up its efforts by raising awareness about the remaining gender pay gap, marking a European Equal Pay Day and monitoring the application of legislation on equal treatment of women and men. The Commission also pushed for further progress in March 2014 recommending to Member States to improve pay transparency and thus tackle the pay gap.

To crack the glass ceiling, the European Commission proposed a Directive to have 40% of the under-represented sex among non-executive board directors by 2020. As a result of its progress in the legislative process, there has been a continuous increase in the number of women on boards ever since the Commission announced the possibility of legislative action in October 2010: from 11% in 2010 to 17.8% in 2014.

In 2013, the EU took action to protect women and girls from gender-based violence through legislation, practical measures on victims’ rights and a comprehensive policy package against female-genital mutilation. It also co-funded 14 national government campaigns against gender-based violence (with EUR 3.7 million), as well as projects led by non-governmental organisations (with EUR 11.4 million).

The results of the first EU wide survey on violence against women, carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and based on interviews with 42,000 women, show that one in three women (33%) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15.

Read and download the full gender equality report 2013 here

The European Commission Gender Equality website offers extensive information on this issue.

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