Why does the EU need to put more focus on gender equality?

Despite so much focus being put on tackling gender inequality in the European Union, unfortunately, the number of women in top jobs in the region is still much too low. This applies to both businesses, and in politics and civil society. Although the same can be said for the majority of countries across the world, campaigners believe that the EU should be leading the way in addressing the issue going forward.

One group, Women Enablers Change Agent Network (WECAN), are taking action right now to push for more women to be in top jobs, on company boards and in position in EU posts. And it’s hard to disagree with their arguments. Currently, women make up an estimated 51% of the population in Europe. Although advances have been seen, gender inequality is still far too common in many states across the bloc. Of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU, women make up just a quarter of all leadership positions.

“It’s about changing the mindset so that it’s a natural thing — whenever you have to make a decision about a position — to think about a male candidate and a female candidate,” Connie Hedegaard, a former EU climate chief from Denmark, said in a phone interview. “It’s not about quotas. It’s just about making qualified women more visible, bringing them into the discussion.”

Constance Kann, director of international relations at the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank. said: “There are additional barriers for female entrepreneurs to have access to finance, so we need to do something about that. We can also generate gender benefits if we design investment projects in the right way. That is why we are training our loan officers to ensure we grab opportunities to deliver on gender equality.”

So, what’s WECANs goal? In the short term, they would like to see a breakthrough in the empowerment of women, and this breakthrough needs to be irreversible. With the European Parliament elections coming up next year, the issue of gender inequality needs to be put forward as part of a major campaign. Of course, this will be alongside other crucial issues like immigration, security and unemployment, but the group believe that creating an equal society should be pushed through parliament just as urgently.

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