Gender Equality in the EU

Gender equality has been a main priority of the EU since the founding of the Community. Equality between women and men is a fundamental right, a common value of the EU, and a necessary condition for the achievement of the EU objectives of growth, employment and social cohesion.

During the Danish Presidency of the Council of the EU two dossiers on the area of gender equality will dominate the work of the Council. Below you can read more about these matters and the EU’s gender equality policy.

EU follow-up on the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995

Since 1999, the European Union has evaluated the follow-up on the 12 critical areas of concern from the Platform for Action (PfA) adopted by Member States and European institutions. During the Danish Presidency this follow-up will focus on the critical area of women and the environment – specifically the issue of gender and climate change.

In close cooperation with the European Gender Equality Institute a report on how the EU has implemented the recommendations from the PfA will be published and Council Conclusions along with a set of indicators will be presented for adoption at the EPSCO Council in June 2012.

The indicators are expected to focus on the unequal balance in decision-making in the area of climate change as well as the lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the educational system.

Women on Boards – discussion in EPSCO Council

The EU is a driving force when it comes to improving equality between women and men. And there have been many good results in the EU and the Member States - for example women’s labour market participation. The rising share of women in employment and education is, however, not reflected in the proportion of women on executive and supervisory boards, where women are still a minority. If the EU2020 Strategy objective of inclusive growth is to be achieved, it is necessary to look at how to promote women in decision making at the highest level.

In order to promote this issue, Denmark is planning to facilitate a debate at the EPSCO Council in February 2012.

On 8 March 2012 the European Commission will publish its State of the Union report in relation to women on boards in Europe. The report will, among other things, be supported by the discussions in the EPSCO Council meeting in February. Efforts to promote women in decision making at the highest level will thus be strengthened during the Danish Presidency.

Breaking down the gender-based choices of education

In order to be able to compete in an increasingly globalised world, the EU2020 Strategy notes that gender equality is a prerequisite for economic growth and welfare. The European Union thus needs to make full use of all competences and talents, and at the same time statistics indicate that groups of boys and young men are dropping out of the educational system.

A seminar dealing with this issue will take place during the spring in Denmark. As a result, best practises and new knowledge will be presented at the end of the Danish Presidency – not only on boys dropping out but also on how to promote more girls and women into STEM, since both the gender- divided educational system and the lack of boys present serious problems for society as well as for the promotion of gender equality.

Main priorities of gender equality in the EU
The European Commission’s policies on gender equality have been prioritised through several action plans and strategies. In 2010, the Commission published a “Strategy for equality between women and men (2010-2015)”, which lists five main priorities:

  • Equal economic independence
  • Equal pay for equal work and work of equal value
  • Equality in decision-making
  • Dignity, integrity and an end to gender-based violence
  • Gender equality in external actions

In addition, the strategy also focuses on important horizontal issues like gender mainstreaming and the inclusion of men into the work on promoting gender equality.

EU instruments in equality policy
Gender equality as a policy area has been prioritised since the establishment of the European Community. Gender equality is described explicitly in the Treaty of Rome of 1957 as one of the fundamental issues of the Union.

Major milestones in the development of the EU’s gender equality policies include the equal pay directive and the directive on equal treatment, which became effective in 1975 and 2000 respectively.

The European Commission works in close cooperation with the Member States. Every year around International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Commission presents a report on the state of play in the Member States. The European Union also supports activities that promote gender equality through programmes like PROGRESS and the European Social Fund. Furthermore, a new European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has been established.