On 8 March thousands of women will be striking or marching throughout the world to re-affirm their rights. While in some countries feminism has become a dirty word some countries are proud to show their first feminist governments. As EU citizens we are free to agree or disagree with different forms of feminism or its instrumentalisation but what we cannot do is ignore the facts:
Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas whereby females and males are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their gender. Gender stereotypes both result from, and are the cause of, deeply engrained attitudes, values, norms and prejudices against women and men.
Based on gender stereotypes that are assumed as real facts, discrimination in the education-training and labour market chain continues to apply and to negatively affect individual performances and, in general, society as whole. Women should be given educational choices to expand their education and career options into areas where men are predominant and into new and growing work opportunities (like the digital and green economy). Men, too, should be given educational and career choices in “female” dominated fields (especially the care economy, but also primary and secondary education). For too long, the focus was merely on encouraging women to enter male-dominated arenas, but men have so far had very little encouragement to enter female-dominated areas. Test your knowledge in serious game!
Gender discrimination in the labour market and in education remains rife today, with many young women experiencing job insecurity, lower wages than male peers, biased job interviews and a lack of participation in STEM subjects in Higher Education. In the European Union, within most economic fields women earn on average 16% less than men, a figure that is well known among most Europeans (69%), yet not for a third of employees who do not know the wages of their colleagues. These inequalities vary across Member States yet are wide and all-encompassing across all sectors, and violate fundamental rights, imposing a heavy toll on the economy and resulting in the underutilisation of talent.
While sex education is mandatory by law in nearly all the countries of the European Union, the content and quality will vary. Nordic and Benelux countries are known for having the highest quality of sex education, while Eastern and Southern European States have deficient or inexistent sex education programmes. At European and international level training on gender equality for adults remains the domain of VET providers, NGOs and CSOs. The main topics of such training are the understanding of stereotype mechanisms, their consequences and raising awareness about them; analysing the ways to mainstream gender; understanding the tools to promote gender equality policies; improving gender equality at the work place. However the standing issue is the lack of available resources and sufficient public interest.
SOLIDAR Foundation advocates for the implementation of targeted and continuous training for different teaching workforces around Europe. Furthermore, gender-neutral curricula are also a necessary change to reduce gender-based discrimination in education and the workplace, along with the reform of sex education in order to install a sense of shared responsibility for family duties and to fight career stereotypes. With the #MeToo movement now targeting EU institutions, any such a movement needs to be accompanied by educational elements to spread and explain the main message and the reasons behind it, just as the Education and Lifelong Learning pillar at SOLIDAR Foundation has always promoted.