Report on EU Gender Equality Forum published: Status Quo and Outlook

The Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers recently published a report about the Forum on the Future of Gender Equality in the European Union, which took place in April this year. 308 participants discussed about opportunities and concrete strategies for promoting Gender Equality in the EU and identified key priorities in 10 different policy areas. We will present to you the main results of those three areas, that involve labour market and business issues.

The EU Gender Equality Forum was part of a broader consultation process on the topic and involved politicians, International Organisations, social partners, NGOs, business and academia. Following five keynotes on the topic from diverse perspectives, all 308 participants were invited to share their visions about a gender equal European Union. They were participating in 2 out of 10 workshops covering various topic areas, among them „Gender equality in the labour market“, „Beyond work/life balance“ and „Gender and the digital society“.

In the panel gender equality in the labour market, Prof. Angela Kolb (Minister of Justice and Equality of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) and Prof. Jacqueline O’Reilly (Director of the Centre for Research on Management and Employment at Brighton Business School) gave some background information on the status quo of their topic.

They emphasized the EU goal, to have 75% of 
women and men of ages 20 to 64 in employment by 2020. According to them, staying attached to the labour force is very important for women given the significant potential in terms of employment, economic growth and social inclusion. The workshop leaders reported that about 60% of EU university graduates are women, but, despite this positive fact from the educational sector, the percentage of women in employment (63.5 %) was still 11.5 percentage points below the rate for men in 2014.

In its Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015, the European Commission commits to actions that are promoting equal economic independence for men and women. The Commission e.g. provides funding for projects and initiatives that are supporting female labour participation through the European Structural and Investment Funds Furthermore, the EU promotes work-life balance and adequate leave through its legislation.

Some of the key priorities for future actions identified by the participants in the area of labour market participation of women are:

-     Gender neutral job evaluation leading to equal pay for work of equal value

-     Childcare facilities

-     Raising awarenessfor gender equality in society and business

-     Making gender roles and stereotypes subject of discussion

In the area of work/life-balance the participants for example emphasized the need for change in business culture or easier access to care, including both care for children and dependents.

Another issue with strong linkage to business topics is the Digital Society: The report concludes that less than 30% of the around 7 million people working in the 
information and communication (ICT) sector were women. Cheryl D. Miller (Founder and Executive Director of the Digital Leadership Institute) and Jenny Rönngren (Managing Editor of the Feminist Weekly Feministiskt Perspektiv) who headed the workshop, emphasised that women are under-represented at all levels in this sector, especially in decision-making 
positions. Bearing in mind that the digital economy is growing rapidly there is a clear business imperative to unleash the – so far – untapped potential of women for ICT sector as there may be a lack of 900,000 skilled ICT workers in 2020.

The study “Women active in the information and communication (ICT) sector” published by the EU Commission suggests four priority areas where action should be taken:

-       “Building a renewed image of digital jobs among women and society, with actions such as disseminating the most appealing digital topics for young women;

-       Empowering women in digital jobs, e.g. promoting, together with industry, harmonised European educational curricula to foster clear and straightforward ICT careers paths;

-       Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs in ICTs, e.g. improving access to seed and venture capital programmes for women entrepreneurs;

-       Improving working conditions for women in digital jobs, e.g. by highlighting the improved performance of businesses employing women.“

As future actions in this area, the Forum participants e.g. proposed to ensure that throughout the whole educational system, topics of gender equality and digital society use of ICT are addressed. Furthermore, they suggested to challenge stereotypes and to make an effort enhancing digital skills for girls and women.

The full report can be downloaded on this website.