Harnessing the momentum
A European Union that gives women equal opportunities to reach their full potential will be more resilient and powerful. The newly launched EU Gender Equality Strategy takes a huge stride in this direction, writes Cindy Franssen.
The new Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 is an important boost for gender equality in the European Union.
With Ursula von der Leyen as the first female Commission President, we must use this momentum to maximise our cooperation and roll out an ambitious plan.
Since its inception, the European Union has been a project based on equality of opportunity. Gender equality is one of our fundamental values.
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It was great to see that the Gender Equality Strategy, which the European Commission launched on 5 March, starts with a simple reference to the Treaties. “In all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women.”
It is an excellent reminder to all Member States and MEPs that this is one of the foundations of our Union. Women’s talents are an under-utilised source of expertise and creativity that could strengthen the European Union.
Nevertheless, we are still far from achieving equal opportunities for all women and girls. A score of 67.4 out of 100 in the 2019 EIGE Index shows that progress is slow, particularly as this figure has only improved by 5.4 points since 2005.
“For every euro that a man earns, a woman earns only 84 cents”
As EPP shadow rapporteur on the Gender Equality Report in the European Parliament, I want to stress four important issues.
First, the European Gender Strategy should have the overarching goal of giving women the opportunities they deserve. In this regard, the economic empowerment of women is of huge importance.
A substantial gender pay and pensions gap persists in the EU – this makes women less economically independent. For every euro that a man earns, a woman earns only 84 cents.
This becomes even worse at retirement, as the women’s share decreases to 60 cents. We have to fight these gaps and strive for better employment remuneration for women.
This is not only a matter of fairness; pay equality would also have positive impacts on the GDP of the Union.
Many of the economic inequalities between men and women stem from an unequal distribution of care responsibilities and household tasks, or are the result of horizontal and vertical labour market segregation.
For that reason, the full transposition of the European Social Pillar, in particular of the Work- Life Balance Directive, will be an important step.
Furthermore, we should ensure accessible and affordable childcare facilities and promote women in STEM and the digital sector, as well as female entrepreneurship.
Another issue for the next strategy to address will be keeping women on board in this rapidly-changing world. New challenges are emerging, such as digitisation, migration and climate change. All of these have a gender dimension.
Concerning digitisation, for example, only 16 percent of people working in ICT in Europe are women, while there is a growing demand for digital skills in the labour market.
In addition, women will be necessary to realise the Green Deal. The active participation of women in climate negotiations and decision-making will be crucial to add gender specific differences to the climate approach.
Last, I would like to see support and solidarity for women in vulnerable positions. In the EU, 15 percent of households with children are single-parent households, of which 85 percent are run by single mothers.
“In the EU, 15 percent of households with children are single-parent households, of which 85 percent are run by single mothers”
In the EU, 47 percent of single-parent households were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2017. These single mothers need specific support as they are particularly economically vulnerable, because of the pay gaps and the fact that they are more likely to leave the labour market for their families.
Women with disabilities also need a specific approach; 80 million people with disabilities live in the European Union, of which 46 million are women and girls.
We need better gender-disaggregated data, improved access to the labour market or social economy and a removal of the barriers for their full participation to society. Even diseases such as cancer require a gender-specific approach.
We must fight hard against all forms of violence against women. Some 33 percent of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
These numbers are shameful, and we should do everything in our power to fight these acts of violence.
New forms such as cyber violence or online sexual harassment should be addressed as well. It is time for the EU to stand up as a whole and say no to violence against women.
One thing is certain; a European Union that gives women equal opportunities to reach their full potential will be more social, resilient and powerful. It is our duty to make this happen.
To quote Michelle Obama: “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
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