Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. In 1957, the principle of equality was enshrined as a key right in Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome, which declared:
Men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.
Lovely. So, are men and women equal now? More than fifty years later, have the lofty goals of the Treaty of Rome finally been realised? The statistics seem to suggest not. The average gender pay gap in the EU, defined as the “relative difference in the average gross hourly earnings of women and men within the economy as a whole”, was estimated at 16.4% in 2010, and women are generally still over-represented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions. Moreover, a survey (PDF) on perceptions and experiences of Europeans with regard to gender equality conducted in 2009 showed that 82% of Europeans think this issue should be addressed urgently.
During our EU 2050 event in March, Professor Anne Glover (Chief Scientific Advisor to EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso) spoke about the need to encourage more women to choose scientific careers. Recent efforts in this respect, however, have received a less-than-enthusiastic response. A recent campaign by the European Commission (“Science: It’s a girl thing!“) featured a music video characterised by bloggers as follows:
Serious man sits at microscope. Fashionable, slender girls slink in on ridiculous high heels and vogue to shots of bubbling flasks, splashes of makeup, twirling skirts, and giggling hot chicks.
Ok, music videos featuring Bunsen burners and lipstick might not be the best way to close the gender gap in science and engineering. So what’s the solution? And even if more women did choose careers as scientists, how can we ensure they get paid the same amount as men doing the same job?
What do YOU think? Has gender equality been achieved in your country? Do boys and girls have equal education opportunities and career expectations growing up? What should be done to close the existing gender pay gap? Send us YOUR ideas!