Despite recent progress, women in Europe are still shut out of top posts in both politics and business, says a new European Commission report.
Across the EU, 24% of parliamentarians are women – up from 16% a decade ago – with a similar proportion holding ministerial office. In the private sector, men still represent 9 out of 10 board members in top companies and two-thirds of company bosses. The report coincides with International Women's Day on 8 March and comes ahead of a new European network of women in power, to be launched later this year.
"Progress on getting more women decision-makers has been too slow. If we believe in the values of democracy, we cannot leave half of the population outside the structures of power," said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla. "Gender equality is also good for business. Our economies must reap the full potential of all our talents if we are to face up to global competition. This means smashing the glass ceiling once and for all!"
The report, "Women and men in decision-making 2007 – analysis of the situation and trends", shows that the proportion of women members of national parliaments (single/lower house) has risen by around half, from 16% in 1997 to 24% in 2007. However, it is still well below the so-called critical mass of 30% deemed necessary for women to exert meaningful influence on politics. The European Parliament is just above this critical figure (31% women). On average, men outnumber women among ministers in national governments by around three to one (24% women, 76% men).
Women are also highly under-represented in economic decision-making. The central banks of all 27 EU Member States are led by a male governor. Across Europe, women account for over 44% of all workers but just 32% of those considered as heads of businesses (chief executives, directors and managers of small businesses). The under-representation of women at the top level is heightened in big business where men account for nearly 90% of the board members in leading companies (constituents of the blue-chip index in each country) a figure which has barely improved in recent years.
There has been significant progress in promoting women within the central administrations of EU Member States where they currently fill nearly 33% of positions in the top two levels of the hierarchy, compared to around 17% in 1999. The proportion of women in similar positions within the EU institutions has also improved from 14% to just under 20% over the same period, although there is still much room for improvement.
The primary role in promoting better gender balance in decision-making is at national level, but the European Commission supports these efforts by collecting, analysing and disseminating comparable data on the persistent gender gaps, in particular through its database on women and men in decision-making. The Commission will set up a new European network of women in power later this year, to promote the exchange of experiences and good practices across the 27 EU countries.
Contact: Katharina von Schnurbein: +32 2 298 14 08