EPRSauthor By / March 21, 2014

50/50 formula – gender balance

Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s main values and reaches back to 1957 when the…

© koya979 / Fotolia

Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s main values and reaches back to 1957 when the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome. The European Union’s efforts in fostering gender balance have helped to change the lives of many Europeans for the better. Although many inequalities still exist, progress over the last decades can be seen. This is mainly thanks to equal treatment legislation; gender mainstreaming (integration of the gender perspective into all other policies); and specific measures for the advancement of women.

Recent trends include the increased number of women in the labour market and progress in securing better education and training. However, gender gaps remain and women are still over-represented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions.

This Keysource brings together a selection of studies on gender balance in education and research, career, politics and family life.


Is the Knowledge Society Gendered? / Sylvia Walby, In: Gender, Work & Organization; January 2011, Vol. 18, Issue 1

50/50 formula
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The article presents theoretical and empirical work on gender and the knowledge society and introduces the articles of the special issue. It introduces three ways in which the knowledge society and economy are gendered: the gendering of human capital; the gendering of networks; and the gendering of the definitions of the knowledge society. The study finds that the way the knowledge economy is defined, makes a difference to its gender composition: the more centred on technology and fixed capital, the more masculine, the more centred on human capital, the more gender balanced. The knowledge economy provides better work and conditions. Gender gaps are narrower in the knowledge economy than in the overall economy: occupational hierarchies are narrowed to women’s advantage, while differences in work temporalities are narrowed to men’s advantage.

Key actions and latest figures on Gender Equality / European Commission Factsheet, March 2014

This factsheet reflects on how Europe is boosting progress in achieving equality between women and men. While gender gaps remain, significant progress has been achieved in numerous areas with the help of targeted policies at EU level.

EPRS Keysource Gender stereotyping / Ülla Jürviste, European Parliament Research Service, February 2013

Gender stereotyping, as defined in a CoE study, means preconceived ideas whereby males and females are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their sex. Sex stereotyping can limit the development of the natural talents and abilities of boys and girls, women and men, as well as their educational experiences and life opportunities.

Education and Research

Gender and Education – UNESCO Institute for Statistics site

Global education patterns are changing. Within formal education systems, from the primary to the tertiary levels, opportunities are expanding, literacy levels are improving and enrolment is rising. But are these changes advancing the goal of gender parity and equality in education across regions and countries?

Data indicate that progress towards gender parity at the primary school level continues, yet the gap between boys and girls remains wide. The UNESCO eAtlas of Gender Equality in Education allows you to visualize the educational pathways of girls and boys through indicators on all levels of education for more than 200 countries and territories. Updated annually, the eAtlas includes maps and ranking tables that can be used to evaluate the extent to which educational disparities between the sexes are changing over time. (See also documents and sources)

In 2012, 40% of young women had completed tertiary education compared with 32% of men / EUROSTAT Newsrelease, 8 March 2014

Who are more likely to leave school early – women or men? What proportion of young women have a degree? Which fields of tertiary education are the most popular among women and which are the least? Are a higher or a lower proportion of women than men in employment? Do women or men more often work part time? What is the difference in earnings between women and men? How have fertility rates changed over the last decade? Answers to these questions can be found in this News Release.

The Nordic region : a step closer to gender balance in research? Joint Nordic strategies and measures to promote gender balance among researchers in academia / Solveig Bergman, Linda M. Rustad, Nordic reference group, Nordic Council of Ministers, 2013

The Nordic countries are often presented as a “gender equality paradise”, but the degree of gender balance among researchers in academia does not differ noticeably from that of other European countries. This study looks at the situation in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. About 80 per cent of professors in the Nordic countries are men. Many subject areas within academia are extremely gender segregated. Progress in the field of gender equality is slow – and has at certain periods been at a complete standstill. This report shows the state of affairs and the development in the field. The report gives examples of successful practices and highlights research policy challenges that it is important to analyse in a gender and equality perspective.

Study on Combating Gender Stereotypes in Education / Maureen Bohan, DGI- human rights and rule of law, Council of Europe, 2011

The issues and consequences associated with gender stereotyping in education need to become more central in countries’ development policies and plans as they face a future which requires the talents, skills and contributions of all citizens. Comprehensive strategies therefore are required to counter gender stereotyping and sexism which stubbornly persist despite a range of measures in countries. These strategies must include robust monitoring and evaluation. The negative effects of gender stereotyping and sexism on the lives of so many are too serious to await the very gradual changes which have occurred to date in the education systems in most countries. More urgent action is required.


Gender balance on corporate boards: Europe is cracking the Glass Ceiling / European Commission Factsheet, March 2014

Although today 60% of new university graduates are female, women are outnumbered by men in leadership positions in the corporate sector in the EU. On average, a mere 17.8% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU are women. The issue has been the focus of intense public debate initiated by Vice-President Viviane Reding. Indeed, not taking advantage of the skills of highly qualified women constitutes a waste of talent and a loss of economic growth potential. Various studies suggest that companies with a higher representation of women at the most senior levels deliver better organisational and financial performance.

Moving mind-sets on gender diversity: McKinsey Global Survey Results / McKinsey Global Survey, January 2014

To ensure that corporate culture supports—not hinders—the ability of women to reach top management, companies must address mind-sets and develop a more inclusive, holistic diversity agenda.

Female executives are ambitious and sure of their own abilities to become top managers, though they are much less confident that their companies’ cultures can support their rise. In McKinsey latest survey on gender and workplace diversity the results indicate that collective, cultural factors at work are more than twice as likely as individual factors to link to women’s confidence that they can reach top management. (Full report Women Matter 2013–Gender diversity in top management: Moving corporate culture, moving boundaries).

Workshop on gender balance in corporate boards and top-management member states without legislation on quotas : three case studies : notes / Elena Doldor, Katja Langenbucher, Beáta Nagy; European Parliament Policy Department C, PE 474.409, Brussels: European Parliament, 2013

The majority of the EU Member States does not have a legislation imposing a gender quota in corporate boards and top-management. The following notes present the main characteristics of the national situations regarding the gender balance in top management positions and corporate board diversity in three of these Member States: UK, Germany and Hungary. They analyse the corporate governance policy and the obstacles to a better gender diversity.

Balancing Gender at the Top / Kate Jenkins; The Political Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 4, 2012

There are few women in top positions in either the public or the private sector in Britain. Despite vocal commitments to transparent selection on merit, despite the outlawing of unfair discrimination, despite the assertion by most major institutions of commitment to equality and diversity, there are few exceptions to the ubiquitous pattern of male dominance. Such jobs entail power, money and influence. While employment in Britain has become more diverse since the middle of the twentieth century, this is not reflected in the most senior decision-making positions.

Achieving Geographical and Gender Balance in the European External Action Service / Simon Duke, Sabina Kajnc Lange; European Parliament Policy Department for External Policies, PE 457.106, Brussels: European Parliament, 2013

This study explores the current state of affairs within the European External Action Service (EEAS) regarding geographical and gender balance. The study briefly outlines the political and legal background to both issues. Gender balance has more obvious societal and institutional based measures of balance. The study concludes with a number of specific recommendations regarding possible ways of improving both geographical and gender balance within the still young EEAS.

European Commission proposal for a Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of publicly listed companies initial appraisal of a European Commission impact assessment. Initial appraisal of a European Commission impact assessment / Alexia Maniaki-Griva; Impact Assessment Unit, DG IPOL, European Parliament, 2013

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission’s Impact Assessment (IA) accompanying the proposal for a Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures.


Female Political Representation – the use of Electoral Gender Quotas / Irene Hennigan, European Parliament Research Service Keysource, March 2014

On the 4th July 2013 the European Parliament adopted the report “Improving the practical arrangements for the holding of the European elections in 2014” drafted by Andrew Duff (AFCO). The report calls upon MS and political parties to support female candidates, but does not require quotas or other mandatory means to secure this. Eight MS have successfully implemented electoral gender quotas and the perceived necessity to introduce binding measures both at national and EU level has been voiced by a number of MEPs.

Women in parliaments / European Parliament Research Service, At a Glance, March 2014

The InfoGraphic “Women in parliaments” provides information on the proportion of women in national parliaments, compares representation of women in national parliaments with their numbers in the European Parliament and shows the number of women in the EP by political group. It also gives an overview of female representatives in the EP by Member State and outlines the gender quotas applicable to the EP elections in the current legislature.

Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Good Practices Guide to Promote Women’s Political Participation / NDI and UNDP study, 2012

This publication identifies targeted interventions for promoting the stronger presence and influence of women in political parties as well as advancing gender equality issues in party policies and platforms. It is based on 20 case studies that were commissioned by UNDP and conducted by NDI during 2009-2010.

Family life

Work-life balance: Measures to help reconcile work, private and family life / Ron Davies, EPRS Briefing, 2013

In Europe, more than one worker in five expresses dissatisfaction with their work-life balance. Conflicts between work and other aspects of life can be caused by long hours, difficult schedules or intense periods at work, as well as by the demands of unpaid work in the home, particularly domestic chores and the care of children and the elderly. Achieving work-life balance can be made easier by family-oriented policies such as social benefits, employment-protected leave for parents and affordable formal arrangements for family care. Flexibility in the organisation of work (part-time work, flexible working time and telework) can also have an enabling effect.

Great expectations: Exploring the promises of gender equality / Tess Lanning; IPPR 2013

Through this report, the authors explore changes in women’s aspirations and expectations over time and from generation to generation, and debate about the priorities for the next era of gender politics.

The report concludes that ‘break-the-glass-ceiling’ approaches have come to dominate mainstream debates about gender equality, and have led to a narrow focus on formal, legal equality. While important in seeking to combat the discrimination and sexist attitudes that still exists, this kind of approach is limited in its ability to bring about change in most people’s lives. A more meaningful approach to gender politics requires a move away from abstract debates about how the ‘average woman’ fares compared to the ‘average man’, and towards a set of policies and changes that are rooted in and relevant to the daily experiences of women.

The influence of working time arrangements on work-life integration or ‘balance’: a review of the international evidence / C. Fagan, C. Lyonette, M. Smith, A. Saldana-Tejeda; ILO Working paper, 2012

This paper examines the link between different aspects of working time and outcomes in terms of work-life “integration” or “balance”, which includes but is not limited to the reconciliation of work and family life. It also considers the extent to which various types of working time arrangements not only facilitate work-life balance, but also promote, or hinder, gender equality in both the labour market and in personal life.

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