AREAS OF ACTION
Economic autonomy is a priority objective for gender equality and has been since the equal pay provision in the Treaty of Rome, the core of European action to promote gender equality. Still, almost 60 years later, throughout the EU, women earn less than men and progress in closing the gender gap is surprisingly slow. For the 34 countries included in the European Working Conditions Survey (Eurofound) the monthly gender pay gap amounts to around 23.8%. This is explained by vertical and horizontal segregation. When added to existing inequalities in employment and activity rate this contributes to maintain women in an inferior situation to men in terms of financial resources and economic situation. As a result, women on average are also more likely than men to be at-risk-of-poverty, especially older women who benefit lower pensions due to irregular and shorter periods of employment. It impacts also on their power to negotiate an equal status within the household and on the quality of their work (measured by flexibility at work, health and safety and training).
It is now well documented that the economic and financial crisis has had different effects on women and men. The crisis itself has stiffened differences between women and men in their participation on the labor market, in the level of remuneration, including pensions, and risk of poverty. Although the crisis saw initially a contraction of some gender gaps historically faced by women (cuts in male-dominated sectors most hit by the crisis), cuts in social expenditure and welfare state reforms undermine female-dominated public sector employment and social transfers and services, which have been crucial for women’s economic integration and access to good quality jobs. Already, in all member states, women tend to be less employed than than men, and in more precarious jobs. This leads to diminished career opportunities, lower pay and lower prospective pensions. Sectoral segregation remains a feature of the EU labor markets.
Gender5+ considers that the EU has been proactive in terms of promoting gender-equal working time, flexible work, incentives for the division of unpaid work within a couple, and employment-friendly, and accessible childcare. This should already improve women’s access to economic autonomy. Moreover, the European Gender equality index (EIGE) and in particular its work, money and time indicators offer a unique instrument to feed debates, monitor the situation and encourage progress. The contribution of the European Social Fund in enhancing women’s employment has been crucial over the past years. It adopted the dual approach by (a) promoting gender equality through mainstreaming and (b) supporting specific targeted actions aiming at sustainable participation and progress of women in employment by combating the feminisation of poverty, reducing gender-based segregation and gender stereotypes in the labor market and in education/training, promoting reconciliation of work and personal life for all and equal sharing of care responsibilities between men and women.
Towards a care economy
The COVID-19 pandemic has put into the spotlight the harsh consequences of our economic activities, which are driven by competition, exploitation, discrimination, and gender inequality. Along with globalization, these driving forces have contributed in no small measure to the unequal spread of the virus. The mistaken belief that only competition can drive an economy successfully has been shaken to the core by the pandemic. The pandemic has given an opportunity to pause to recognize care-giving as an essential activity. Care is central to the process of social reproduction; it ensures the continued existence of individuals, families and society. Without care, there could be no socioeconomic and political organization. With growing populations, ageing societies, changing families and the spectre of future global health issues, care constitutes one of the most important socio-economic activities that should be at the centre-stage now that we begin to organize the post-pandemic recovery. Policy decisions taken now, particularly at the EU-level, will be crucial for this purpose. Hence, future policy makers should reflect on the fact that care is not only central to our future policies on health but is also a driver of economic recovery. Furthermore, health should be recognized as a human right, under the broader framework of gender equality. States are under the obligation to ensure access to timely, acceptable and affordable health care of appropriate quality (WHO, 2017)
At the core of European endeavours for a sustainable recovery, should be a move towards a care-based economy that is not a short-lived response to the current emergency but a sustainable and long-lasting solution to a broad range of socio-economic problems. This will require a major shift in thinking. Such an economy driven by a value-based care system must be supported by sufficient public investments, be people-centred and respect gender equality and intersectionality. Furthermore, it must be supported by macro-economic tools and mechanisms designed to put care and gender equality at the centre of economic activities. Gender budgeting will need to be used to ensure that public expenses and financial investments serve gender equality. A gender-sensitive revised tax framework in support of quality care-giving will frame such an economic model. Serious public investment is necessary to support care facilities so that they can respond to needs over the life cycle, supported by investments in gender-sensitive public infrastructures, including training and education facilities. Work organization around caring activities needs to take account of the existing and grossly unequal burden that women carry in relation to paid and unpaid work. Care, as the motor fuelling future economic activities, should also extend to the environment and sustainability. Such a paradigmatic shift from economic activities based on competition to those based on care will be essential for the well-being of future generations, if not for their survival.
(excerpt from the G5+ report: TOWARDS A GENDERED RECOVERY IN THE EU:WOMEN AND EQUALITY IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE COVID19 PANDEMIC)
WOMEN IN THE ECONOMY AFTER THE PANDEMIC Towards a care economy
WOMEN FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
Climate change, environmental degradation and resource depletion are increasingly affecting the lives of people around the globe – both women and men, although not always necessarily in the same way and to the same extent. The European Union and its Member States are leaders in formulating policies to try and prevent further environmental damage. While these policies are important in order to face current challenges, Gender5+ considers that fundamental societal changes will be needed if we are to halt environmental damage and put our economies on a sustainable basis. EU policies must not only address production, but also target consumption, and must take gender seriously into account.
As a European NGO, the principal objective of Gender5+ in this area is to push for gender concerns to be integrated into all European Union policies and decisions related to the environment and sustainable development. In relation to issues such as climate change, water, food, energy, waste, habitat, transport, consumption,etc., gender roles can be very different, as are effects on men and women and opportunities offered to them. Though there is an overall lack of gender-differentiated statistical data in relation to environment and the green economy, one can generally say, on the basis of available data, that overall, there are gender-related differences, and that women are mostly worse off and less influential than men.
We at Gender5+ believe that the links between gender and the environment have been so far mostly absent from EU policies and measures. We are advocating a gendered approach in all EU sustainability policies and decisions both in order to achieve better results for sustainability, and in order to avoid further reproducing and propagating the existing gender inequalities which the European Union is committed to eliminating. Being based in Brussels, we follow closely the work of the European Institutions and provide input wherever possible.
At EU level, we need to build on the UNFCC’s recent recognition that gender is important in the efforts to combat climate change. More specifically, in relation to the implementation of the UNFCC, it has been recognised that:
Integrating considerations of gender into medium- and long-term adaptation can help to ensure that adaptation is effective and implementable on the ground, and that women can act as agents of change at different levels of the adaptation process.
A gender perspective needs to be taken into account when developing resource mobilization strategies, applying climate finance instruments, and ensuring equal participation in the deployment of financial resources, particularly at the local level.
Action to mitigate climate change has the potential to also bring about local gender-positive impacts. Projects under the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms have shown themselves to have potentially positive impacts on the lives of women – by improving livelihoods and health and allowing time for the pursuit of additional opportunities.
The development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies represent an opportunity to increase efforts on gender mainstreaming with regard to technology access and information and training on the use of appropriate technologies.
A gender-sensitive approach to creating, developing and strengthening institutional, systemic and human-resource capacity-building can foster gender balance in decision-making on, delivery of and access to means and tools of implementation for mitigation of adaptation actions.
Despite progress made in the European legal and policy framework for the advancement of women, and despite changes in the role of women in society, the overall progress of gender equality in the media sector is slow. We still find that women as subjects are marginal and misrepresented in media content; that gender stereotyping in TV, cinema and advertising is enduring; that media ownership is predominantly male; and that the proportion of women involved in top-level decision making in media organisations is extremely low. On the other hand, several studies indicate that an increased presence of women in decision-making roles in the media is likely to lead to more gender-sensitive media content and programming, presenting a more balanced picture of women’s and men’s lives and women’s contribution to society, which would have a positive impact on public policies, private attitudes and behaviour.
The reality, as recent research from The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) confirms, is that the media sector in the EU continues to be male-dominated. Persistent patterns of inequality in the form of under-representation, glass ceiling to advancement of women and gender pay gap remain still firmly embedded within the media sector. Women make up nearly half the workforce and account for more than half tertiary level graduates for media related careers but women occupy less than one-third of all decision-making posts. Women and men continue to be segregated by different functions at different levels of importance and/or prestige (e.g., magazines vs newspapers), and in roles requiring different skills and competences (e.g., low representation in technical areas).
Recent data collected in the Mapping Global Media Policy Project showed how biased the news programmes are in their under-representation of women across the EU. Men made up 80% of the cited experts and 81% of the spokespersons. And women were more than twice as likely to be portrayed as victims and three times as likely to be identified by family status (for example, as wife or mother).
Data from the European Observatory on Gender Representation compiled in their monitoring project in 2012 showed that women constituted less than one third of news subjects and/or people interviewed by the European news programmes while in their 2011 monitoring project women received only 20% representation of the political information programmes. They also established in 2012 that when the appearance of popular professionals in TV news programmes was the subject of monitoring, the average results across Europe were the following: 16 % of Politicians were women; 14% of Businesspersons/ executives/ economists were women; 8% of Law enforcement bodies (police) were women; and 14% of Sportspersons were women. Regarding the film industry, data shows that women made up only 9% of the directors and 15% of the writers for the top 250 US-produced films in 2012. The number of female protagonists has declined since 2002 to only 11% and women are also less likely to be guests on TV shows. Though equivalent detailed data is not available for the EU, the situation in Europe is not better.
The 1995 Bejing Declaration formally recognised the relationship between women and media as one of the major challenges for the achievement of equal opportunities for women and men in contemporary societies. Its key objectives included a) increasing the level of women’s participation and access to expression and decision-making in the media, and b) promoting a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media. Gender5+ considers that unacceptably slow progress has been made towards improving the role of women in the media, and towards achieving the requirement of equal representation and visibility of women and men, and that this critical area of concern of the Beijing Platform still needs to be properly addressed by the EU Council of Ministers. The 2013 Council Conclusions , though very limited in scope, represent a first step in what should be an on-going process of addressing gender issues in the media at EU level.
Gender5+ is also very concerned by the increase of violence against women on television and in films. Data available from the US Parents Television Council shows that since 2004, there has been a 120% increase in depictions of violence against women on television. There is a need for similar data to be generated at EU level, and for steps to be taken to combat this alarming trend.
In a broader perspective, Gender5+ believes that the role of the media is crucial for the promotion of gender equality. Media not only reflect but also create socio-cultural patterns and norms and are seen as a powerful actor in shaping public opinion and culture. Gender equality in the media must be given a higher priority in the EU that it has received till now, and an “own initiative” report by the European Commission or the European Parliament is an urgently needed first step. Furthermore, Gender5+ believes that the EU Commission should use its power of initiative to put forward specific proposals against gender-based discrimination and stereotyping of women in advertising and the media. Gender5+ considers that it is also important to promote equality of representation of women’s stories and women in film, through building a global movement of support for women filmmakers.
WOMEN IN THE MEDIA
COMBATTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Gender5+ believes that true equality between women and men goes hand in hand with the eradication of all forms of gender-based violence. Violence against women (VaW) is one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time. Women are affected by male violence regardless of race, age, ethnicity, class, nationality, culture or religion. The United Nations explains that “some of the forms of violence perpetrated by individuals are rape; domestic violence; sexual harassment; coercive use of contraceptives; female infanticide; prenatal sex selection; obstetric violence and mob violence; as well as harmful customary or traditional practices such as honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage. Some forms of violence are perpetrated or condoned by the state such as war rape; sexual violence and sexual slavery during conflict; forced sterilization; forced abortion; violence by the police and authoritative personnel; stoning and flogging.”
According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner.
According to the Council of Europe, one European woman in four experiences domestic violence at some point in her life, and between 6-10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.
Women and women’s organizations throughout the world have been active in the fight against gender-based violence since the seventies. At international level, the UN conferences on women provided a forum for action. Conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence against Women (CEDAW), which is binding for its signatories, became a major rallying point for women. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and that “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men". The Istanbul Convention, a legally-binding instrument which “creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women”, opened for signature on 11 May 2011 in Istanbul and entered into force in 2014.
The European Union espouses gender equality as a fundamental principle and has addressed the problem of violence against women through various policies, conferences, programmes, data collection, expert groups, and directives. Through directives such as the directive against sexual harassment, and the directive against human trafficking, it has tried to tackle other forms of violence against women.
Despite all commitments, violence against women remains deeply embedded in European society though progress has been made in some member states, where national action plans to combat domestic violence have been put into place. Particularly helpful are laws that aim to punish intimate partners who use violence. While domestic violence has received considerable attention, rape, as well as other forms of gender-based violence continue to be one of the major threats for women independent of age, colour or ethnicity. Gender5+ believes that it is high time that the EU adopts legislation against violence against women.
Gender5+ believes that there can be no democracy without gender equality, without the equal participation of women at all levels, in politics as in society. In November 1893, the women of New Zealand became the first in the world to vote in a national election. 120 years later, and despite progress made, women remain outsiders in the corridors of power and are still a minority in elected parliaments, including the European Parliament. In November 1992 in Athens, the European Commission launched its first action on Women and Decision making at the European Conference “ Women in Power”. All the then Member States signed the Athens Declaration. Over 20 years later, even though women represent more than half of the population of the EU, they are not represented equally in decision-making at all European levels. The underrepresentation of women in decision-making represents a serious challenge in terms of the democratic functioning of all EU countries and of the European Union.
We consider women’s political participation as having two important dimensions – the proportion of women in decision making and the inclusion of women’s perspectives and needs in government policies and programmes. As an NGO promoting women’s rights and gender democracy from a feminist viewpoint in the context of European integration, we will be actively involved in promoting an agenda for gender equality and women’s rights in the period leading to the forthcoming European Parliament Elections, and beyond. And we will support all actions seeking to address the gender imbalance in participation in the the European Parliament elections, and in political decision-making generally.