International Women’s Day: female leaders needed

At the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day, CEC takes stock of the employment situation of women in general and managers in particular. If women’s employment has progressed and their participation in higher education is higher than men’s, the gender pay gap however remains at around 16% [1], while only one out of three managers [2] and one out of four board members are women[3]. Furthermore, women in the EU face a large gender pension gap at almost 40%[4].

Women’s employment situation today

Today, women’s full time equivalent employment rate stands at about 40%, whereas men’s is at around 56%[5](general employment rate at 64% and 76% respectively[6]). More concretely, women with disabilities, older women and migrant women are particularly affected by low employment levels[7]. Increasing female employment could bring EU GDP per capita increases of between 6.1 % and 9.6 % by 2050, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality[8].

As far as the quality of employment is concerned, women are more affected by precarious employment than men. Precarious employment includes at least very low pay, working hours or job security. 8 % of men and 9 % of women are engaged in these forms of work with young and low qualified women being far more affected than their male homologues. Furthermore, 30% of these women find themselves in this situation due to family and caring responsibilities (7% for men)[9].

The #metoo debate on harassment has highlighted the need to also tackle the topic in the framework of employment. Female workers are consistently more exposed to sexual harassment than their male counterparts. Around 3% of young women under the age of 30 report[10] that they have been exposed to sexual harassment in the previous year, although the real figure is likely to be higher. Bullying and harassment in the workplace has been reported by around 4% of the workforce[11].

Looking at women in leadership positions, there has been some progress in boards in countries that have implemented legislative measures. Since October 2010, the proportion of women on boards in countries with binding legislative measures (Belgium, Germany, France and Italy) has risen by 23.8 % (from 9.8 % to 33.7 %) compared to just 7.6 % (from 12.7 % to 20.3 %) in countries without such measures[12]. A better gender balance in leadership positions has been shown to positively affect performance[13] and to reduce workplace harassment[14].

In the light of the findings, CEC European Managers is convinced that more has to be done to increase women participation in the labour market at all levels. Besides raising awareness on gender equality, non-discrimination and care responsibilities, the most important field of action consists in better work-life balance and welfare provisions to prevent precarious situations for women.

Leave entitlements

The European Commission has proposed a new package on parental, paternity and carer’s leave. It foresees 10 days of paternity leave paid at sick leave level, whereas women have the right to 14 weeks. In CEC’s eyes, this difference is an insufficient improvement in gender equality, as it had stated in the consultation on the issue[15]. To increase the share of caring responsibilities and parental responsibilities of men, equal rights should be granted to both parents. In this respect, the provision on 4 months of non-transferable parental leave paid at sick leave level is better suited, although its success will depend on the widely varying national sick leave level, which may again favour women taking the leave due to their lower levels of income.

Childcare facilities and family policy

Besides the often positive consequences for children, accessible infrastructure for childcare is reducing negative consequences for female career development[16]. However, many member states still lack sufficient childcare places[17], especially for children below 3 years of age. It has been shown that higher rates of fertility, female labour market participation, and lower poverty rates are found in countries where support to families is comparatively comprehensive, provided quite continuously over childhood, and based on a wide range of support. Better achievements in all these areas appear to depend on how leave entitlements after the birth of children, support in cash for needy families, the provision of both high quality childcare and after-school care services and flexible arrangements at the workplace for working parents are combined over the family life-cycle[18].

Please find more information on the topic below:
– Hearing of the European Parliament on work-life balance on 21.2.18 with further information
– Summary on EU action on gender equality
– Summary on EU action on work-life balance
– Report on Women’s economic empowerment by the European Parliament
– Women in the labour market, European Semester:

[17] Ibid.