Introducing quotas to increase women's representation in political, administrative and business bodies and reducing the pay gap between women and men to respond to the current crisis are among the many proposals approved on Tuesday by the Committee on Women's Rights.
The resolution, drafted by Sophia in'T Veld (ALDE, NL) and approved with 16 votes in favour, 7 against and 5 abstentions, presents the annual report on the state of gender equality in the EU for 2011 and puts forward suggestions to improve it.
For a European equal pay target
The current economic and financial crisis affects women more than men, due to current disparities in wages, MEPs say. They stress that economic recovery projects that are under way focus on male-dominated jobs, while women are underrepresented in sectors such as renewable industry and science that are most likely to expand in the future.
The committee reiterates a demand for legislation to support equal payment for women and men for the same work and qualifications and calls for an EU equal pay target to reduce the gender pay gap by 10% in each EU country. MEPs also call on the Council to move forward on an amendment proposed by Parliament to the Maternity Leave Directive to ensure paid leave across the EU.
The gender pay gap has been only marginally reduced in recent years and, on average, women in the EU still earn 17.5% less than men, even though they make up 60% of new university graduates.
Quotas can be the answer
Electoral quotas have been successfully introduced in France, Spain, Belgium, Slovenian, Portugal and Poland, MEPs say, and should therefore be considered as an option, especially in those countries with low representation of women.
To address the issue of low women's representation in executive positions of European companies, MEPs call on the Commission to evaluate the measures so far adopted by EU countries. If these are found to be inadequate, the Commission should put forward a legislative proposal to introduce quotas to increase female representation in corporate management bodies to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020, says the text. On average in the EU, only 12% of executives are women, and only 3% of chairpersons.
To improve the gender balance within the EU institutions, the committee ask national governments to propose, after the 2014 European elections, both a woman and a man as their candidates for European Commissioner.
Respect same sex couples' rights
The committee asks the Commission and national governments to guarantee the recognition of same-sex couples' civil unions and rights in those EU countries that have legislation in place and regrets that some Member States have introduced restrictive definitions of "family" that deprive these couples of legal protection.
Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality
In the chair: Edite Estrela (S&D, PT)
Procedure: no- legislative resolution/Annual report on equality in the EU
Events relating to 8 March International Women's Day
Workshop for journalists: "Equal pay for equal work" - 7 March, 10.00h-17.30h, PHS 01A002, European Parliament, Brussels
Inter-parliamentary meeting of MEPs and national MPs - 8 March, 09.00h -12.30h, plenary chamber, European Parliament, Brussels