EU policymaking discriminates against women

Written by Madi Sharma on 8 March 2017

EU policymaking discriminates women | Photo credit: Fotolia

Through its lack of female representation in policymaking, the EU is actively discriminating against women - even though they make up the majority of the population, writes Madi Sharma.

Today is International Women's Day. I am very excited to tell my grandson, "Equality between women and men was an EU founding value and today we have made it a reality. The numerous 'gender equality strategies' and 'strategic engagements for gender equality' we have had over the decades are now obsolete. 

"The EU has equal female labour-market participation, equal pay and pension allocation. The decision-making process is 50/50 and violence against women has been eradicated. Now, the European Union is a role model for others to follow to promote gender equality across the world. I am so proud to be European."

However, 2017 is not the year I will be able to share this success story with my grandson. Not when women make up 52 per cent of the EU population, but only 63.5 per cent of them are in employment. Not when 32 per cent of women work part-time, compared to only eight per cent of men. 


Not when across the bloc, the gender pay gap is 16.4 per cent, women's pensions are 39 per cent lower than men's and only 20.2 per cent of board members of the largest publicly listed companies are women.

Not when only 46 per cent of PhD holders, 33 per cent of researchers, 20 per cent of the highest-ranked academic staff and 11 per cent of heads of universities or assimilated institutions are women. 

Just 29 in every 1000 female graduates have a computing-related degree, and only four go to work directly in the ICT field. A mere 30 per cent of new start-ups in Europe have been established by women, while 75 per cent of EU women in top management jobs have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.

As a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), I note that the number of our female members has not risen significantly over the years. Today, three member states have no female members. 

The EESC is mandated to represent civil society, yet only a quarter of its members are women. And even worse, just 17 per cent of its rapporteurs are women. The underrepresentation of women in study groups and on missions is noticeable, and yet we fail to make any significant change despite all the awareness raising. I am failing my suffragette sisters in allowing this to continue.

Every EU policy is biased towards men, because men make sure they vote for themselves. This does not happen only in the EESC, but in every EU institution. Women account for no more than 37 per cent of MEPs and only nine out of 28 Commissioners. 

Every policy is influenced by the individuals who vote to defend their position. In the case of EU policy, those voters are in the majority men, despite Europe's population consisting of more women than men. Europe is in effect discriminatory towards women, and there is little chance of any reform without the implementation of immediate mechanisms to deliver parity.

Without transparency, accountability and equality, the European project will remain in contradiction to the core values on which it was established. The future of Europe starts with the equal inclusion of women.

About the author

Madi Sharma is a UK member of the European Economic and Social Committee and founder of Madi Group, a group of international private sector and not for profit companies, and NGOs

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