It is with great pleasure that the EST is launching its very first Common Article, a collaboration of 18 of our ambassadors who share their take on Gender (In-) Equality. Below, you can find their opinions, factual descriptions, heart-felt calls for action and much more. Do you want to know how your own country is doing compared to European Union standards, on a global scale or you are just looking for inspiration of what there is to do about gender equality in your country? Read ahead. No matter if you take a glimpse at all our short pieces, or simply scroll to your country right away, this piece is worth a look. Do you feel that is it actually boys not girls who are suffering from gender inequality in schools? How many women are in your parliament? Why should you speak up on the topic? Find answers to these questions and many more below. We wish you a happy reading!
On behalf of the European Student Think Tank,
Rebecca Fobbe (Senior Ambassador)
Austria – by Dominik Draxler
Austria’s Mixed Gender-Credentials
The downgrading from rank 19 (in 2013) to rank 37 (in 2015) in the Global Gender Gap Report, issued by the World Economic Forum, must have come as a surprise for Austria. The following piece shall briefly explain the reasons for such downgrading.
The Global Gender Gap Report assessed between 136 and 145 countries in the past three years in four categories: educational attainment; health and survival; economic participation and opportunity; political empowerment. While Austria was able to exceed in the first two categories, with now even more women enrolled in tertiary education, it did not manage to improve its situation in the latter two. In the economic sphere, Austria was able to overall improve its index from 0.6 to 0.7 (1.0 = equality). However, if this gap between women and men reduced at the same rate it does so far, it would still take about 81 years for an equal treatment of both genders. Austria simply cannot keep up with other highly developed economies such as Germany, Switzerland or the Scandinavian countries.
Where Austria truly fails is in the category of political empowerment: only 33% of women are represented in Austria’s National Council (Lower House), and only very few hold ministerial positions. The latter comes as a surprise though given that every position held by a woman can decisively improve the country’s index rank, as the French have demonstrated. According to Stefanie Kompatscher, just within one year, France managed to improve its index significantly from rank 45 (in 2013) to rank 16 (in 2014) by simply increasing the percentage of women in government to 50%.
Bosnia & Herzegovina – by Enna Zone Donlic
Among many problems that Bosnia &Herzegovina (B&H) faces, gender inequality is one of the top 5. The main reasons for that are widely present patriarchal norms, strong perception of enforced gender roles and traditional values among the public.
B&H has the lowest percentage of women at the labour market in Southeast Europe. In 2013 there were only 37.3% of employed women. This also reflects on the employment in the government sector or on women being on electoral lists. In April 2013, a new Electoral Law raised gender quotas from 33% to 40%. Yet, there is a need for both genders to occupy positions high enough on the lists to ensure balanced representation. Elections in B&H, whether general or local, show how the Electoral Law is not fully respected and how there are still not enough women in decision-making. Another issue quite specific for Bosnia is conflict-related violence. It is necessary to provide a legal framework for recognizing the status of victims of conflict-related sexual violence. Victims of domestic violence are neglected and safe houses to which they are going lack financial support.
All of these problems magnify the social exclusion of women, which makes situation even worse. In general, Roma and Jewish people have minimal or no rights at all. Imagine the scale of problems that a woman of a minority group can face. Consequently, B&H needs educated people that will work on a further establishment and promotion of gender equality, to tackle social exclusion as well as any other serious problems.
This is not a job for one gender alone! This affects all of us and should be responsibility of all to fight for gender equality.
For more information about Gender Equality in B&H, visit www.arsbih.gov.ba
Czech Republic – by Jasper Gruiters
Impact of Family Life
Gender equality has improved noticeably in the Czech Republic in the last 25 years. The chances for both sexes are high in the Czech Republic: schools are universally accessible and job opportunities are evenly available. Universities in both Prague and Brno even have more girls than boys enrolled and the education level of girls in the Czech Republic is generally higher than that of the opposite sex.
Whilst it seems that the framework to create gender equality has been set up in the Czech Republic, the gender employment gap remains one of the highest in Europe. The cause for this gap can be found in the classical Czech view on family life. Women are still almost always responsible for the raising of their children. The lack of childcare services and extreme low usage of the available childcare as a result of high prices makes women who are forced to stop working switch to part time jobs.
A more modern view on family life and increased work flexibility such as is already implemented in Denmark and Sweden could result in gender equality throughout society: giving women the opportunity to continue their careers and making sure that gender equality exists on the labor market.
Finland – By Erik Immonen
In Finland, issues related to equality between the sexes are widely discussed in politics and in the media, and many leading politicians, both male and female, describe themselves as feminists. One area of concern in the context of gender equality is the fact that girls often outperform boys in schools, although not in every subject. Additionally, there are proportionally more female than male students on each progressively higher level of education. Only a few fields, such as technology, have a mostly male student body. The budget cuts made by the current right-wing government to public spending have been criticized due to their perceived effects on gender equality. For example, Finnish municipalities will face huge cuts, and 79 % of municipal employees are women. The long-term consequences of these policies and similar decisions remain to be seen.
Finland is one of the few European countries that retain conscription, which can take the form of either military or civilian service. The length of the service period is 165, 255, or 347 days for the rank and file, and 347 days for conscripts trained as NCOs or reserve officers. The length of the civilian service is invariably twelve months. The system has faced criticism over its unequal treatment of men and women, as women have the option of not participating, whereas men do not – they are legally obligated to serve. However, women may still choose to serve in the military, and if they interrupt the military service after a period of 45 days, they will have to perform civilian service. Every year, approximately 300 women participate in the military service.
France – by Moïra Tourneur
France has been ranked 15 in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum. But if the French Republic can pride itself on being the number one in the fields of ‘health and survival’ as well as ‘educational attainment’, progress is still to be made regarding ‘political empowerment’ (rank 19) and ‘economic participation and opportunity’ (rank 56).
Indeed, men and women are far from being equal in France in terms of employment and salary. Because of an archaic conception of society, women still carry most of domestic duties in France. To reconcile work with family responsibilities, they work part-time more often than men – and are thus less paid. Besides, career progression is much slower for women than for men. But even with equal rank and position, women suffer a gender pay gap of 10.5%. In order to alleviate gender inequality, the government has enacted a Law on Real Equality between Women and Men in 2014, whose main goals are to develop professional equality as well as political, social and professional parity – a meaningful first step towards changing attitudes concerning the role of women in society.
Germany – by Nora Szabo-Jilék
When the EU issued the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, which also included a call for Gender Mainstreaming, the German government also put the topic on its agenda. A passage saying that the government will promote the implementation of equal opportunities for women and men was added to the constitution and the office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunities in the Job Market was created.
In Germany gender inequality is no longer an issue in the education system but continues to be a problem (even if attenuated) at the workplace, in politics and even at home. The percentage of female graduates at secondary schools and the percentage of female university students is roughly 50%. The bigger issue is in terms of what is expected of a certain gender in society. At vocational schools there are a significantly higher number of female students if the degrees offered are in nursing, physiotherapy or childcare for example.
I believe that we have come to a point, where no matter how many additional policies are created in favor of gender equality, the expectation we have towards gender roles in society has to change or nothing will. One part of the solution could be by doing what might be considered a paradox: give men more opportunities. Show them that they are not necessarily expected to be the ones earning money, that they do have a choice. Offer men paternity leave; promote working from home not only amongst female employees. While these steps might make a workplace more equal, we have to focus a lot more on the younger generation and education if we want to achieve something lasting. By policies or regulations people might feel like it’s being forced on them compared to if it comes naturally because that’s the only way they’ve ever known.
Greece – by Christodoulous Chrysafis
Gender Does Not Define Us
Gender inequality is a very important parameter that can help lead countries to sustainable development and improve the prosperity of the citizens. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. But today gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress.
Even though in Greece there are laws that lead to equal treatment between the genders, you can observe that in Greek society there are beliefs that maintain gender inequality. A vast amount of women complain that superiors don’t hire them easily because of possible future pregnancies, while others suffer from sexist and discriminating behavior within the work area. The majority of men and even of women accept that the female’s role inside the family is linked with the raising of children, while the men’s role lies with the financial, thus working part, the political participation in Greece is 21%. Many factors contribute to the persistence of unequal treatment against women, one of them being the media that tends to show powerful men in contrast of manipulated and nondependent women-a spreading of stereotypes.
In Greek schools no specific subject for gender equality is taught although the last few years many teachers dealt with that issue in the margin of projects. The education system can minimize the inequality by officially including more projects for equality in schools, open for parents as well. Finally, women themselves shouldn’t consider their gender as a weakness or an obstacle. It is very important for them women first to realize that they are as powerful as men, not allow unequal behavior against them and do not hesitate to assert the rights as law empowers them to do.
The UNDP Gender Inequality Index has estimated that in Greece there is 0.146 inequality.
Hungary – by Géza Kovács-Dobák
Educational gender inequality… against boys?
In a world where we fight against sexism and for the equal treatment in any life event of women, the following might come astonishing or unwelcoming. However, within our modern educational system boys tend to perform worse than their girl counterparts in school. Boys at a young age might be disorganised and restless, even noisy, and our education system tends to view this as an intolerable behaviour. The set of beliefs that we centre our education around, with the teacher profession being mainly a female role, is excluding boys from educational fulfilment.
We not only underestimate the male imagination, we also discourage it. As Ralph Fletcher, writing instructor, phrased: Too many teachers take the “Confessional Poet” as the classroom ideal. This does not go with the “boy-ish” behaviour and we wish not to tolerate it. But if boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their imagination and enthusiasm, they are more likely to become disengaged from studies and will lag further behind.
In the US boys are five times more likely to be expelled from pre-schools as girls. If girl behaviour will remain a golden standard for grad schools and pre-schools, boys will be further left behind in the future. In an ever more knowledge-based economy this is not a recipe for a successful society.
Latvia – by Algimants Kontauts
Currently, Latvia has a better position than the EU-28 average in most gender equality indicator indexes.
Here are some quick facts:
- Women – 54% of the population in Latvia
- The employment rate of women in the Latvian labor market equals 60.8% and is above the EU-average (58.5%) – in addition, the share of women actively looking for work (13.3%) is also higher than the EU-average (9.8%).
- In Latvia 65% of the higher education institution graduates are women.
- The share of women in the total number of scientists in Latvia is rather high – 52.4% (32.9% on average the EU). In 2011 in Latvia 193 females and 104 males received doctorate (65% and 35%, respectively).
- The under-/overrepresentation of women and men in hierarchical levels is less pronounced in Latvia than on EU-average. The Labour Law ensures equal rights to work, fair working conditions and fair pay for all people regardless of their gender. It also regulates temporary work and working hours.
- The Labour Inspectorate and the Ombudsperson’s Office monitor the application of the principle of gender equality in the labour market. However, we have to admit that enforcement of the Labour Law is still relatively weak in Latvia.
- Increasingly more ladies take manager posts and participate in the decision-making process. Women in management positions in Latvia accounted around 46%.
- Most popular President Mrs. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (8 July 1999 – 8 July 2007). Her approval rating ranged between 70% and 85%, and in 2003 she was re-elected for a second term of four years with 88 votes out of 96. Even democratic frontrunner USA haven’t elected woman president, at least not yet (Let’s see how coming elections work out.)
If we manage to keep the pace we’ve picked up so far, we may hope for one of the leading position in this area in nearest future.
Poland – by Aurélien Pommier
In Poland gender inequality is a reality. According to women, the problem is not necessarily equality between a man and a woman, but rather vis-à-vis the position of the two in the workplace.
Pursuing this idea, we can assess that Poland’s EU membership benefits the country in terms of gender equality. Indeed, several EU legislations, especially about equal treatment, were implemented at national level and created a legal scope for gender equality within the country. However, Polish citizens still have little knowledge of this legislation. They do not know what solutions the laws provide against discriminations.
Nevertheless, fight for gender equality is in place, there is a range of associations and non-governmental organisations (NGO), which aim to effectively eliminate formal and informal barriers of social advancement for women. But they have little power on the matter: funds and decision-making remain in the hands of government.
Thus, gender inequality is a social problem Poland faces, although it is not a priority for the Polish government, it is an important European Union issue. Access to EU membership provide some tools as institutional mechanisms to enforce rights and also makes country reconsider the question of gender equality, as demonstrated by the creation of the Plenipotentiary for Equal Status of Women and Men in 2002.
As far as I am concerned, gender equality is an important issue in our democracies; it is a huge aim behind equal treatment’s policies. There is no reason for a person to be considered beneath another, especially for gender or race.
Portugal – by José Miguel Anjos
In Portugal, during our 20th century´s far-right regime, women were, in fact, reduced to a simple way of life: take care of the house, take care of the children and be good wives. Simple as that, pure as that, and brainless as that. This kind of behaviour and social status led to a disrespecting society that holds, still, some examples of how not to treat women.
So, for instance, our National Parliament, between its 230 members / deputies, only 33% of them are women. In matters of our National Government, between 17 ministers, we only have 4 women; and, if we see the Secretaries of State, among the 41 of them, only 15 are women. So, as a Portuguese citizen, I must tell you, unlike the thoughts of many politicians, we have still some ingredients of our previous far-right regime.
To solve this major problem, in 2006 the Parliament made a law, roughly translated into the “gender equality law”, saying, lato sensu, all parties in almost all elections must present at least 33% candidates from both genders, and, in a closed-list system, such as the election to the National Parliament, they must not have 3 consecutive members from the same gender. (This means if we have a W (women) and an M (men), we should have WWM, and MMW, but not MMM or WWW.) The Portuguese current path in matters of gender equality is the right one, but we have yet some very hard work to do.
Russia – by Angeliqe Truijens
Speak Up, All of You
Gender equality is not that difficult to achieve. Really. It is an issue of mind-set. Of men and women. Women are not the only victims of gender inequality, men are, naturally, also expected to behave a certain way, do certain things, have a certain role in the family and/or society. That is why men should also be interested into achieving gender equality – women can also take the trash out and earn money by working a fulltime job (just to give some examples). But both men and women keep gender inequality in place. THIS. NEEDS. TO. STOP.
I just touched a sensitive subject – women earning money. Yes, according to the newest statistics, which are, alarmingly, from 2014 (!), the gender pay gap in unadjusted form is on average 16,1%. This does not mean that in every job, the gender pay gap is exactly 16,1% on average; some job areas have a bigger gap than others. The gender pay gap is one problem; the eliminating of the gender pay gap seems to be a completely different problem.
After one month in Russia, I have obviously not experienced the gender pay gap here. I have, however, been catcalled on the street, met 18 year-old women that do want to study and have an education and have met women that are 22 years old and have two kids. I am eager to explore feminism and gender inequality in Russia more in depth, and therefore, I suppose that this article does not only apply in the EU, but also in Eastern Europe and in Russia.
I am asking you, women. All women: young, old, middle-aged, black, white, yellow, green and any other colour you are or want to be. You can open your mouth when you think you get a lower pay than your male counterparts in the same position at your job. You should. You have to. Please, do. And men. Speak up if you notice a woman earning less than you. Motivate your daughters to speak up. Motivate your wives. And, last but not least, motivate your sons to do the same. Changing history is not an easy process – it takes a village. It takes the world.
Spain – by Santiago Campos Ruiz
The improvement of gender equality policies in Spain started in 1975 thanks to the arrival of democracy to our country. The Spanish Constitution affirmed the equality between men and women and declared any legislation illegal which could imply differences of gender. Some years later (1982), the first socialist government of our history and the entrance of Spain in the EU (1986) supposed a strong support to these kind of policies. The importance of the European Union Law in our country is undeniable. The European Directives 2000/43/CE, 2000/78/CE or 2000/43/CE may serve as an example. However, this progress wouldn´t have been possible without the fight of thousands of Spanish feminists and activists. Our society fought hard to achieve the equality in rights and to narrow the gender gap.
Nevertheless, this progress was interrupted as one of the consequences of the 2008 economic crisis. Gender policies and the institutions which implemented them suffered dramatic cuts. For instance, the Gender Equality Ministry, created in 2008 during the socialist government under Prime Minister Zapatero, was eliminated in 2010 and the 2015 budget for policies against gender violence were cut down on 22.5% in comparison of the 2008 budget. These kind of actions have brought bad news to other country. Spain barely passed the latest Glasdoor´s report about the gender pay gap. The so-called glass ceiling is another important problem that we have to face too. For example: our college system presents worrying figures: 40% of the lecturers are women, only a 20% of them become professors and just one woman is vice-chancellor of our state universities.
The crisis cannot mean a step back in the progress of the gender equality. That’s why campaigns like the one launched by the European Student Think Tank, Empow(h)er are more necessary than ever. Minding the gap is important not only in the subway but also in the fight for equality rights between men and women.
Sweden – by Eliel Stenstrom
Gender Equality is considered a corner stone of Swedish society, and it is integral for the national perception of fairness. According to the World Economic Forum, Sweden is currently the second most gender equal country in the EU (after Finland). This is illustrated politically by the fact that half of all government ministers are women, and that nearly half (43%) of Swedish MPs are female. Educationally girls are more likely to receive higher grades, and graduate, from upper secondary school. They also receive nearly twice as many university degrees as men, and occupy half of all places in both postgraduate studies and doctoral studies.
In addition, Sweden is currently one of the first nations in the EU to propose hiring quotas in business boards (based on findings showing that women currently only occupy 25% of the seats in Swedish corporate boards) and the government has recently started providing incentives to equalize parental leave (based on findings which shows that women take up 3/4 of all parental leave).
Yet it is important to note that we still face many challenges: Sweden has yet to have a female prime minister, the difference in income between women and men with the same employment and qualifications is still on average 4.5-5%, only 1/10 of all corporate CEOs are women, 1/20 of all corporate board chairpersons are women, and 75% of all professors at Swedish universities are men. Therefore, whilst Sweden might seem ‘gender equal’ compared to many other EU countries, it is still far from being truly equal.
Turkey – by Ipek Ince
The 2010 MDG Progress report on Turkey shows that Turkey has almost reached the target of eliminating gender inequality in primary education, although the proportion of girls who are not taking up secondary education is noteworthy. The MDG Progress Report further highlights the existing structural inequalities: The primary gaps are found in the participation of women in decision-making and in the labor force: The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 14,73% (with only 81 seats held by women in the 550-member parliament). According to the Gender Inequality Index (GII), Turkey ranks at place 77 out of 138 countries.
Besides that there are several projects that have started in order to prevent inequality in Turkey: An important progress in advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in 2008 was the National Action Plan on Gender Equality covering the period of 2008-2013. The aim of the Action Plan is to set targets for ministries and national agencies to promote gender equality in the above defined areas and to develop government policies addressing the gender issues.
In February 2009, the Law on the Equal Opportunities Commission for Women and Men was adopted in the national parliament. Consequently, in March 2009, an Equal Opportunities Commission in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, with unanimous vote of parliamentarians from different political parties, was established. This Commission is in charge of promoting gender equality in the legislation making and examining complaints on violation of equality between women and men at all levels of public life.
England 1 – by Mohamed Elgabry
On Women in the Workforce
Sadly, people still need convincing of the existing gender gap that has stained Britain’s reputation of exemplifying equality in politics and society. Nonetheless, the figures still hold true that women earn 24% less in the workforce, in average full-time salaries between men and women, and that only 13% of STEM-related jobs are occupied by women (Fawcett Society). In 2015, new legislation forced every company that employs at least 250 people to publish the differences in pay, yet measures still need to be taken to ensure that women can easily return to the workforce after maternal leave. One way England can help encourage gender equality is to offer couples a choice between either dividing their maternity/paternity leave, or sharing it (i.e. a mother can choose to pass her rights of maternity leave to the father or vice versa), thus lengthening the duration of maternity/paternity leave without losing too many hours. Since the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that one of the major problems concerning gender pay equality is the shorter working hours in women’s careers, and since the Office of National Statistics (ONS) confirms that women experience a lower growth in full-time salaries than men (1.4% versus 1.6% average increase), this policy could help alleviate these complications and promote gender equality in the workforce.
Lately, however, the attention has been turned to girls and their quality of life in England. For example, Plan International UK in cooperation with the University of Hull recently released a report outlining the variety of living standards for a girl, specifically the difficulties one faces of verbal and sexual abuse in school. Lucy Russell, for example, who manages the UK girl’s rights campaign for Plan International UK condemned the notion that Britain’s increase in wealth results in an increase in gender equality, which is understandable when referenced to the statistics noted above. However, such organizations must be careful not to confuse cases of bullying with gender inequality. For example, one of the girls interviewed for Plan UK detailed an experience more concerned with a personal trauma through bullying rather than a testimony outlining the unfair treatment of girls in a school campus. If, on the other hand, it is uncovered that penalties are lighter to boy offenders, or that there is an overall lack of just punishment for male bullies, then it is surely a case of gender inequality. However, the same report noted that girls are more prone to report incidents of abuse than boys are, hence implying that the voice of the boy population of a school is unrecorded, leading to uninformative data of the quality of life of a boy in a school environment. To tackle this issue, it is recommended that more investments be placed in providing counsellors to schools and promote a “safe zone”, thus encouraging students to speak more openly about their experiences in school.
England 2 – by Rensa Gaunt
Our government in the UK is making progress towards gender equality, including further protection against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. A recent report from the Women and Equalities Committee stated that ‘pregnant women and mothers report more discrimination and poor treatment at work now than they did a decade ago’ and made many recommendations to counter this, including reducing the cost of bringing a case to the employment tribunal, which is often prohibitively high.
More and more women in the UK are in work, and we need equality of rights in the workplace more than ever, especially at a time where women are going through extreme changes in their lives.
However, in my opinion we mustn’t only consider women as we work towards gender equality. According to a 2007 report by the Department for Education and Skills, in England girls are more likely than boys to achieve the highest marks on their GCSE and A level exams (taken aged 16 and 18 respectively), with a massive gap of 9.6% between girls and boys achieving the benchmark of 5 or more passes at GCSE, though IQ and reasoning tests give ‘small or negligible overall gender differences’.
This gives me hope that, as the differences are not mirrored in other tests but are responses to the education system and socialization, we will be able to overcome the attitudes and obstacles that disadvantage different groups, so that everyone can make the most of their education and subsequent working life.
Scotland – by Julian Lagus
The Scottish Government is actively working to promote gender equality in economic and social spheres. Despite its earlier work, the Government has concluded that women are still more likely to be deprived of access to political power, decision-making and material resources, whilst being more liable to experience domestic abuse than men in Scotland. What is more, men are at a disadvantage when it comes to workplace cultures that do not recognize men’s family or childcare responsibilities.
Certain powers, such as the power to legislate about equal pay, are reserved to the Westminster Parliament, which can render the Scottish Government incapable to take action and make its position rather inflexible. However, the Scottish Government asserts its authority in these matters by working with certain organizations, for example “Close The Gap”, that try to influence the labor market. The Scottish Government’s Legislative Program for 2016-17 is also an indication of a push towards a more equal society, for it introduces, among others, the new Domestic Abuse Bill that criminalizes psychological abuse, something that is hard to achieve with the help of existing legislation, and the Gender Balance on Public Boards Bill that will require positive action to be taken to eradicate gender imbalances on public sector boards. Looking at the situation from an outsider’s perspective, the Scottish Government is visibly committed to tackle the gender equality gap with all the tools it has in its disposal, while striving to create a society with equal opportunities for all.
 World Economic Forum. 2015. “World Gender Gap Report 2015: Economies-Austria.” Accessed September 20, 2016. http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/economies/#economy=AUT
 Kompatscher, Stefanie. 2014. “Österreich ist im “Gender Gap Report” des WEF von Platz 19 auf Rang 36 abgestürzt. Schuld daran hat aber nicht die Wirtschaft.” Die Presse, October 29. Accessed September 20, 2016. http://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/economist/4312302/GeschlechterGraben_Warum-Osterreich-hinter-Malawi-zuruckfiel
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