Previous work by the EU in the area of equality has helped to level the professional playing field between women and men. There are 8 percent more women in the labour market today than there were in 1998, and young women aged 20 to 24 reresent 59 percent of university graduates in the EU.
However, despite these achievements, gender gaps remain. In the economy, women are still not reaching the top positions. Female entrepreneurs make up only 33,2 percent of the self-employed and women are still over-represented in lower paid sectors. What’s more, the pay gap between women and men shows no sign of closing: on average and across the whole economy, women in the EU earn 17,6 percent less per hour than men.
Much remains to be done outside the workplace too. Parenthood affects women’s employment chances and women continue to work more unpaid hours than men at home. The frequency and intensity of violence agains women remains alarming. A new Eurobarometer survey has shown that in Europe an estimated one fifth to on quarter of all women have experiences physical violence at least once during their adult lives and that one in four Europeans knows someone who has been a victim of such violence.
Rigid gender roles continue to influence crucial individual decisions: on eduction, on career paths, on working arrangements, on family and on fertility. These decisions in turn have an impact on the economy and society. It is therefore in everybody’s interest – for both men and women, boys and girls, that gender equality in the 21st century should offer genuine choices for both women and men throughout the different stages of their lives.
Social Agenda – The European Commission’s magazine on Employment and Social Affaires, Issue 25, November 2010