Gender issues are in the spotlight right now. The #MeToo movement has encouraged women to come forward with stories of historical abuse, and worldwide “Women’s Marches” have seen millions of people come out onto the streets to advocate in favour of women’s rights. It feels like there’s momentum building, but to what end?
What still needs to change? In the European Union in 2016, women’s gross hourly earnings were on average 16.2% those of men. That average masks a great deal of variety, of course, with the actual gender pay gap ranging from as low as 6.8% in Romania to up to 24% in Germany.
Activists argue that greater political representation is also needed. Just over 27% of representatives in Europe’s parliaments are women, which seems low (given that women are roughly half of all people alive on Earth) but actually makes Europe the second-best region in the world for political gender parity, below the Americas.
What do our readers think? We received a comment from Anne, who believes there is “still a lot” left to do in the fight for full gender equality. Is she right? And, if so, what exactly is left to do?
What’s the best way to achieve gender equality? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
We cannot carry on talking about democracy while part of society continues to despise the rights of women. Even within the European institutions and in the political parties there isn’t a real advance in the fight against sexism.
I think the laws are not being applied as they should. One of the most important issues to advance in gender equality is to guarantee a strong gender perspective training for all the people who work in the elaboration and application of laws and, at this moment, particularly in the field of justice.
In addition, the European Commission should begin to take the necessary steps to put in place a Directive to combat sexist violence, as well as to adopt this line of work as a real priority of the European institutions.
Working in the committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights (FEMM Committee), as well as chairing the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network, thriving towards gender equality is one of the main fields of my work here at the European Parliament.
We need to invest in the education of young women from an early age on. Girls should be encouraged to understand and believe that they have the equal possibility and power to pursue a successful career, no matter the work-field. We must ensure quality education to girls and women, we have to establish inclusive and quality learning environments and provide safe and adequate educational infrastructure. Moreover, I identify the compatibility of work and family-life as a great challenge, as well as the gender-based discrimination in the work place and in self-employment. A lot has changed for the better recently, but there is still a long way to actual equal opportunities for women and men. The pay gap between women and men is still too big.
Furthermore, in parliamentary and management positions men are still a disproportional big group. In my work as a politician, I strongly encourage women to build a career in politics and to fight against the stereotypes that exist in this male-dominated environment. An increased women’s political participation has resulted in a bigger economic benefit, increased cooperation across party lines and in policy-making that advocates for gender equality.
Anne, according to me, there are many good ways to achieve gender equality. It can be worked on on many different levels. But for me, making education gender sensitive would be one of the best ways to achieve this equality we have been talking about for so many years; if all countries around the world could educate children and the generations to come to be more sensitive about gender stereotypes.
There has been much progress in increasing access to education, but progress has been slow in improving the gender sensitivity of the education system, including ensuring textbooks promote positive stereotypes. This is critically important [if we want] girls to come out of schools as citizens who can shape a more equal society. In some countries, there is a tendency to assume that things are fine as long as there are an equal number of girls in schools.
Among the priorities of the European Union […] is to strengthen the economic situation of women living in rural areas. I think that we all know very well that [the lives of] women in rural areas are particularly difficult. Very often, doing the same hard physical work as men, they receive a lower salary. They have more difficult access to health care, education and further education.
It is very good that today we are talking about these issues because we can effectively improve the situation of women by facilitating access to education, health services, medical services, and social welfare. We must also say that women should be guaranteed the right to a pension. Those women whose lives focus on caring for the elderly in the family, the sick, the children.
I will therefore support all those priorities that I think are right, good and right. Without unnecessary ideology.
IMAGE CREDITS: (c) / BigStock – sangriana; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Lidia Senra CC – Adrián Estévez, Angelika Mlinar CC – Welt Atlas, Barbara Matera CC – European Parliament, Jadwiga Wiśniewska CC – Poseł Jadwiga Wiśniewska
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