International Women's Day preview

The Vice-Chairs of the Parliament's FEMM Committe comment on what's left to be done for real gender equality.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

An economic imperative

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual, which calls for gender equality and justice.

Despite the EU’s significant progress over the last decades, inequalities between men and women still exist.

As a woman, Vice-Chair of the FEMM Committee and an EPP member, I strongly believe in women as actors of change.

Our political family in the European Parliament is dedicated to enhancing equal opportunities for men and women.

Taking action in women’s empowerment is not only a question of fairness, but also an economic imperative.

Although women make up nearly half of the workforce and more than half of university graduates in the EU, they are still underrepresented in decision-making positions, especially at the highest levels.

As rapporteur on glass ceilings encountered in women’s careers, I am deeply convinced that the notion of equality starts at school, where children should learn that they are equal in every aspect of their lives.

Men and women differ but must have equal rights, regardless of their age, religion, family status or educational background.

As Nancy Hopkins once said: “Changing hearts and minds one by one is much too slow - change the institution and hearts will follow.”

Fulfilment for all

Gender equality is a tool for a fairer and more inclusive society, allowing everyone to fulfil themselves without distinction of gender, origin, sexual identity or sexuality.

The forthcoming parliamentary work on the EU’s Gender Equality Strategy must be an opportunity to guarantee more freedom, equality and rights to all EU citizens.

While it is essential to ensure that a woman has as many rights and opportunities as a man, it is also necessary to combat the multiple discriminations suffered by certain social groups and minorities.

The EU must also rethink its public policies to make them all gender-sensitive: in its internal and external practices, and in the way it designs budgets and allocates European funds.

The European institutions will also have to go further in the fight against violence against women, which must be included in the list of European crimes.

The EU and its Member States must ratify the Istanbul Convention and integrate its provisions into their public policies and legal frameworks.

Our group is also pushing for a European directive against violence against women and to guarantee safe access to sexual and reproductive rights for all.

A violent society without real freedoms cannot be a society of equality.

A snail’s pace

The EU is moving forward at a snail’s pace and unevenly in terms of women’s rights, despite the general consensus on the main forms of discrimination against women: the wage and pension gap, the feminisation of undervalued and poorly-paid labour sectors, increased employment bias, gender stereotypes; lack of representation in public and private institutions and gender-based violence.

While a number of measures have been taken in recent years to curb these forms of discrimination, the reality is that in many cases they are either not implemented or are implemented inadequately.

We are also witnessing rea visible and organised offensive at global and European level against gender equality, with discourses that deny the gender perspective, gender violence or sexual and reproductive rights.

In order to bring about substantial change, we need an EU that puts the brakes on misogynist and discriminatory discourses and that works unambiguously towards achieving real equality.

This means taking up the anti-discrimination directive that has been blocked in the Council for 10 years, ratifying the Istanbul Convention, adopting a directive on gender violence and abandoning an approach focused on the neutrality of the labour market in favour of one that places women and the sustainability of life at the centre of analysis and public policy.

No silver bullet

The origins of International Women’s Day go back to the early 20th century and are linked to the American Socialist Party and its struggle for a fairer and equal society.

We, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, are the proud heiresses and heirs of this heritage.

The 8th of March is an important reminder that - despite some progress achieved - gender equality is far from being a reality.

Women are still more likely than men to suffer from physical violence, to receive lower wages or to live in poverty.

Even though gender diversity increases productivity in companies and results in more rational decision-making, women remain underrepresented in leadership positions.

The S&D group is strongly committed to full integration of gender equality in all EU policies and aims to secure a robust and comprehensive Gender Equality Strategy.

We urge European ministers to finally unblock substantial legislation in this area, such as the Women on Boards directive or the Anti-Discrimination directive, both of which have been stuck in the Council for years.

There is no silver bullet to solve the issue of gender inequality, but one of our most important tasks is to stop thinking about gender equality as a women’s issue - this is a societal issue and we are all responsible.