Two men, the President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Commission, and two women, the Chair of the FEMJM Committee and the Vice-President of the European Commission, marked together a century of economic, social, political and cultural achievements of women around the world.
In a speech on International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, said that, despite the progress, the pay gap between women and men remains persistently wide: on average and across the whole economy, women in the EU earn 17.6% less per hour than men.
That is why this year, she said, the European Union introduced a European Equal Pay Day, so that, each year, the extra number of hours and days that women must work to match the amount of money earned by men may be visualised.
Another area where progress needs to be achieved, according to Commissioner Reding, concerns Women in economic decision making positions. Today just one in 10 board members at Europe's biggest companies are women and in 97% of cases the board is chaired by a man.
Ms Reding met chief executives and chairs of boards of publicly listed companies in Brussels on the 1st March to discuss the under-representation of women on corporate boards. She challenged all publicly listed companies in Europe to sign up to the "Women on the Board Pledge for Europe" by March 2012.
She asked them for a voluntary commitment to increase women's participation on corporate boards to 30 per cent by 2015 and to 40 per cent by 2020. In the pledge, she asked companies to actively recruit qualified women to replace outgoing male board members, and to implement concrete measures to achieve these targets.
In one year's time, on 8 March, International Women's Day 2012, she will take stock and monitor the progress achieved. If self-regulation fails, she is committed to take action at EU level to help achieve a breakthrough and get more women into top jobs.
In Malta, according to the National Statistics Office, the employment and inactivity rates for females remained more or less unchanged between2008 and 2009, and stood at 38 and 59 per cent respectively in 2009. On the other hand, their unemployment rate rose by nearly one percentage point to 7.6 per cent.
Just over half the women aged 15-64 in employment had a post-secondary or tertiary level of education. For unemployed women, slightly less than three-fourths had a secondary level of education or less, while this figure stood at nearly 90 per cent of women who were inactivein 2009.
During 2009, 13 per cent of women aged 15 and over were in training or education, of which nearly70 per cent were inactive. Eighty-three per cent of women aged 15 and over hadfollowed a general programme of studies.
According tothe new report on Gender Balance in Business Leadership published a few days ago, only 3% of the largest publicly quoted companies in the EU have a woman chairing the highest decision-making body. There are also considerable variations across Europe: in Sweden and Finland, more than 25% of board members are female, while in Luxembourg, Cyprus, Italy and Malta, this share is under 5%.
Malta has consistently showed to lag behind in regards to Gender Equality in workplace with a gender gap in employment (between those aged 20 to 64) of 37.1% in 2009, 9.8% lower than 2004 but still the highest in the EU.