Gender equality is not a 'women's concern' but the responsibility of all individuals and of the society as whole and requires the active contribution and input from both women and men.
In the past gender equality policies have been contextualised mainly as a women’s issue: the battle for gender equality has mainly been fought by women and for women. In the last decade, however, there has been an increasing acknowledgement of the crucial role of men in building gender equality as equal partners with women. Men and masculinities have consequentially increasingly become subjects of studies and part of gender equality policies in the EU.
Back in 2006, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on 'Men and gender equality' noting that “in order to improve the status of women and promote gender equality, more attention should be paid to how men are involved in the achievement of gender equality, as well as to the positive impact of gender equality for men and for the well-being of society as a whole.”
Two years before, in 2004, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) agreed Conclusions on “The role of men and boys in achieving gender equality”. The CSW emphasized that men must take joint responsibility with women for the promotion of gender equality and recognized that men and boys can and do make contributions to gender equality in their many capacities, and in all spheres of society.
From its side, the European Commission’s Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 also stresses the need for an active contribution and participation of men in order to advance gender equality:
“Gender equality needs the active contribution, support and participation of men and policies should also address gender-related inequalities that affect boys/men such as literacy rates, early school-leaving and occupational health.”
The Commission produced a study to fill the gap of specific and in-depth knowledge of the role and position of men in gender equality issues. The study “The role of men in gender equality – European strategies & insights ” is the first EU study which undertakes systematic and comparative research in the fields of education, employment, reconciliation policies, violence and health.
The study is the synthesis of findings of 31 national reports on the 27 EU Member States and 4 EFTA countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Literature analysis, qualitative research and quantitative analysis using Eurostat data were made to obtain a picture of the current situation in Europe.
Three thematic workshops as well as a final conference were organised, where institutional and academic representatives discussed and fed into the final study.
Three main issues are covered:
• “Men and Care“ – how men are involved in domestic duties and care-giving;
• “Men at Work” – how men are involved in gender equality at work: for example the inclusion of men in female-dominated sectors and occupations, in part-time employment etc.;
• “Men and Gender Equality“– how to address men’s issues in gender equality: relevant topics and strategies such as politics, health and violence. Men’s benefits from gender equality.
The study presents conclusions and recommendations on each of the areas analysed, as well as some guiding principles on how to develop policies to improve the role of men in gender equality. These findings represent key elements for policy makers at European and national level to design and carry out more accurate policies and measures in these areas by using a more comprehensive approach, which takes also into account the contribution, the needs and views of men.