Women and Employment
In this year's annual report on equality between women and men for the Spring European Council, the Commission shows that while gender employment and education gaps are closing in the EU, the gender pay gap has remained almost unchanged. It has remained stable in the EU-15 at approximately 16 per cent, while the estimated figure for the EU-25 is slightly lower, at 15 per cent, taking into account the pay gap in the new Member States.
Two EQUAL themes are particularly relevant for women: reconciliation of family and working life and tackling gender gaps and desegregation on the labour market. Globally around 500 DP’s out of a total of 3400 work on the ground on equal opportunities, of which 192 DP’s focus on “Reconciling family and professional life” and 300 on “reducing gender gaps”.
The dilemma of reconciliation is mainly perceived as a “women’s” problem and is reflected in female employment patterns: 37% of women with care responsibilities work part-time, compared to 17% of women with no such responsibilities and 6.5% of men. The EQUAL commitment to gender equality is completely in line with the relevant Guidelines of Pillar 4 of the European Employment Strategy and with the revised Directive on the equal treatment of women and men in relation to access to employment, training, vocational or career advancement and working conditions.
Lack of affordable and flexible care for children and other dependants is a major barrier to balancing work and family life in many Member States. EQUAL Development Partnerships (DP) solicited the financial support of employers to establish or improve care services for their employees. Another successful approach to meeting family needs and at the same to helping companies attract and retain qualified staff was the introduction of “help desks for family matters”, based in companies or local authorities.
In practice, DPs in Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal have trained women, both employed and unemployed, to provide counselling and practical advice to employees. This may include support to locate the most suitable childcare or elderly care service and to find quick solutions to almost any kind of emergency. Developing personalised working time arrangements and career planning for parents and people with care responsibilities are also part of the task.
The “help desks” that have in many cases become permanent facilities are also ensuring that people on parental leave can stay in touch with their company. This includes to facilitate regular or occasional part-time work and participation in training, both enabling parents to keep their skills up-dated and to return well prepared to the workplace.
The Daphne Programme
The Daphne Programme was established in 1997 to combat violence against children, young people and women. Daphne facilitates NGO and multi-sectoral action against violence, understood in the widest possible sense, from sexual abuse to domestic violence, from commercial exploitation to bullying in schools, from trafficking to discrimination-based violence against handicapped, minority, migrant or other vulnerable people. The original approach of the Programme is that it works with organisations directly in contact with victims and those at risk.
More than 150 Daphne projects, worth € 17 million, have been implemented since 1997. More than 1000 organisations have participated and have been funded. The projects supported by the Daphne Programme have resulted in many different outputs (151 projects in favour of women yielded 252 identifiable outputs).
Although having an impact on legislation is not a specific objective of the Programme, it has been estimated that 12% of the projects did have a documentable impact on legislation and/or on authorities. This is an important spin-off of successful Daphne initiatives. It moves Daphne beyond direct help to victims and those at risk to a longer-term contribution through input to discussions and policy-making.
Gender equality and Regional policy
Equality between men and women is at the forefront of all regional development programmes. It is a legal obligation. Nowadays, there are a large number of projects seeking to reduce discrimination, e.g. help for female entrepreneurs in Greece; innovative services for reconciling work and family life in Finland; improvements to women's job market skills in Spain; help for employers creating new job schemes in Portugal. These are all examples which could’ usefully be propagated throughout the EU. Over the period 2000-2006, more than € 2 billion has been earmarked to help women on the labour market in Objective 1 regions (EUR15; source: COM(2002)748 final).
Women and Environment policy
Representative women’s NGOs have been asked to help DG ENV to define the connection between gender and environmental problems and to give their input in the policy-making process. In the light of this approach, a grant of € 232.554 was allocated to Women NGOs under the NGO activity funding programme for 2004, the WECF – Women in Europe for a Common Future – a coalition of 64 member organisations and 17 individual members, from 32 countries from Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the NIS.
Women in Agriculture
Without the presence and input of women, agriculture in Europe would not exist. Women make 37% of the total workforce on European farms and account for 31% of working time. One holding in five is managed by a woman. As farm managers, spouses, family members or simply employees, women are involved in all systems of production. The CAP reforms will allow rural areas to play their vital social and economic role in European society. Rural Development will allow the creation of new employment possibilities, particularly for women and young people. Our model of agriculture will preserve the family farm.
Gender equality in developing countries
Promotion of gender equality in developing countries and especially in Africa has always been very challenging. Yet, advances have been made. African women's groups have focused on legal reform, violence against women, conflict resolution, economic empowerment.
In terms of capacity building and gender-awareness the European Commission has supported the establishment of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, FEMNET in Kenya with € 200,000. This project aimed at assisting African women within organized civil society to develop means to share strategic information on development, equality and other human rights using information technologies (internet) and conventional media (print, radio and television).
With respect to economic empowerment the European Commission has supported microfinance in Zimbabwe. The € 571,000 project involved a partnership with Dondolo Modonzvo Credit Scheme Trust and was targeted at helping poor women by giving them access to credit and technical assistance, including confidence building and marketing skills, that enabled them to set up viable small businesses. Capacity building included preparing them for a ‘bank culture’ by providing training (in bookkeeping, leadership skills, project planning and management), loans and other services.
Women and Information Society
DG INFSO makes continuous efforts to increase the involvement of women in the management of its programmes. In the MEDIA programme work has been carried out promoting the work of women by supporting two European film festivals with women directors. In the Media Literacy aspect of the programme a communication is being prepared including gender dimension and mainly underlying the fight against sexual, cultural and racial stereotypes. The DG also participates in the Interservice groups for Gender Mainstreaming and Women and Science.
More generally, DG INFSO has recently launched a study aiming to Monitor Progress towards gender equality in the 6th Framework Programme. Two other studies have been pre-published for an ex-post evaluation of the IST priority work programmes and for a Guide of Best Practices in the ICT sector in the Member States. The conclusions and recommendations of the study will be used in the preparation of future work programmes.
In addition the DG had two workshops in order to set up an Advisory Group for Even Gender Distribution in the Information Society and a supporting Working group. These groups aim to promote gender integration and greater diversity in the design and production of related technology. A gender related session was one of the IST event sessions presenting role models of successful women and aiming to encourage young girls to follow ICT careers.
Women and Education and Culture
Gender mainstreaming is practised in all education and culture programmes.
It is in the field of school and university education that we are faced with the main problems concerning equality between women and men: although the best students are female (with a 5% lead), most (80%) professorships are held by men. But more women than men are involved in lifelong learning schemes (source: Eurostat, DG EMPL report).
Mathematics and science remain male bastions. At a time when Europe desperately needs scientific personnel, making a success of the Lisbon Strategy will require women to be encouraged to take up scientific careers. The objective at European level is to achieve a 15% increase by 2010 in the number of people graduating in mathematics, science and technology, at the same time reducing the imbalance between men and women.
The Commission will shortly be launching an evaluation of results concerning equality for women and men in these fields, with a view to formulating recommendations for more effective action, with special reference to the new 2007 programmes.
Examples of projects:
COMENIUS: Polite (Pari Opportunità nei LIbri di Testo – gender equality in school books) project, launched in 1998. http://www.poliedra.it/
GRUNDTVIG: the “Committed fathers” project in Cologne: involving fathers in immigrant families, ethnic minorities and refugees in their children’s education (reading and writing); Germany, Romania, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Poland and Spain. http://www.bildung.paritaet-nrw.org
eLearning: Italian project, @lf@-bet@ - This project, launched in January 2005, is helping immigrants, particularly women with low levels of education, to overcome digital illiteracy.
CULTURE: The "WWW-Women Writers’ Worlds" project is concerned with conserving and disseminating the works of 20th-century female writers. The project is already a bit dated. Spanish, French and Italian partners. The project is concerned with stressing women’s contribution to literary endeavour.
YOUTH: in Hamburg: “Kuca SEKA Women’s peace project”, “Advancing Women’s rights in Egypt”; a project run by the Egyptian Center For Women's Rights; “Modern Girls and Ancient Womanhood” in Finland.