Members' Research Service By / March 7, 2017

International Women’s Day 2017 – Empowering women in the EU and beyond

Written by Rosamund Shreeves (EPRS) and Gaby Umbach (Globalstat), Graphics by Christian Dietrich and Giulio Sabbati. To mark this year’s…

Empowering women in the EU and beyond

Written by Rosamund Shreeves (EPRS) and Gaby Umbach (Globalstat),
Graphics by Christian Dietrich and Giulio Sabbati.

Female Members of the European Parliament
Female Members of the European Parliament

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) will join the European Commission, UN Women, the OECD, members of national parliaments and activists from Europe and across the world, to discuss women’s economic empowerment. The first report by the UN High-Level Panel set up to look into this question finds that women make a huge contribution to economies, but that this often remains undervalued or unseen. The event, taking place in Brussels on 8 and 9 March, will celebrate women’s successes, whilst also exploring what stands in their way, what can be done to give women equal access to secure, properly paid employment, an environment that supports their working and family life, and economic policy that recognises the value of their unpaid caring and domestic work. Over the two days, individual workshops will take an in-depth look at specific aspects, including work-life balance, freedom from violence as a precondition for participation in public life, women’s opportunities in the expanding science, technology and engineering sector (STEM), gender-sensitive policy-making and the universal agenda set in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The EPRS-GlobalStat infographic series ‘Empowering women in the EU and beyond’, issued for International Women’s Day, provides a broad background picture. Highlighting women’s empowerment as a cornerstone of EU gender policy, the series analyses the impact and state of gender equity within EU Member States and puts them in a global perspective. The data presented focuses on education and reproductive health; the labour market; economic and financial power; and women in leadership and conflict.

Whilst the data on education and reproductive health points to the foundation for women’s empowerment, that is, the development of women’s intellectual capacities and physical potential to participate in society, the data on women in the labour market highlights both women’s potential to play a full part in working life and the importance of social policies in creating an environment that enables them to do so. Underpinning these areas are gender dynamics that shape educational patterns and approaches, labour market access and social protection policies. These include what is known as the ‘second demographic transition’ (i.e. lower fertility rates across social classes and women’s rising educational level) and the gendered impact of the financial and economic crisis.

See all our relevant publications in the topic digest on Gender Equality

Empowering women in the EU and beyond
Empowering women in the EU and beyond

Equal access to and control over financial and economic resources are key to empowering women to lead independent lives. The elimination of poverty, increased family income, better nutrition and a stronger societal position are only some of the outcomes strengthened by female empowerment through financial inclusion.

Female ministers
Female ministers

The emergence of female leaders in politics, business and other fields terminates a long history of women’s absence from traditional arenas of leadership. Nevertheless, the number of women in senior leadership positions remains small in relation to their share in the total population, and more effort is needed to enhance gender equity and to empower women in this most relevant area of political life. The same is true for economic leadership. New statistics released by Eurostat on 6 March 2017 show that only one manager out of three in the EU is a woman, earning on average almost a quarter less than a man.

Global data also illustrates the involvement of women in combating political violence and armed conflicts and the many different roles they play (i.e. as key agents in mediation, peace-making and transitional justice; as targets of violent extremism; as victims of gender-based violence; and as foreign fighters), evidenced by data on women in political violence and conflict resolution.

Women’s role as political leaders and policies for encouraging their participation will be discussed at an EPRS round table on Empowering Women in Politics, on 7 March 2017.

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