“We cannot make the world a safer, fairer and more prosperous place unless we empower women to realise their full potential in all areas”, said EP President Antonio Tajani at the opening of an interparliamentary meeting on Wednesday.

On the International Women's Day, Women’s Rights Committee Members and national parliamentarians are looking into the situation of gender equality in political and economic decision-making, the gender pay gap and the challenges to achieve work-life balance, during an inter-parliamentary meeting taking place on Wednesday and Thursday.


Parliament’s President Antonio Tajani, opening the meeting, said: “Genuine gender equality is essential if we are to be successful in addressing the major challenges currently facing us – terrorism, radicalisation, war, poverty and unemployment. We cannot make the world a safer, fairer and more prosperous place unless we empower women to realise their full potential in all areas."


"We are here today to salute the contribution of women to our economies, whilst also examining ways in which we can make progress by learning from each other. The economic marginalisation of women comes at a significant cost, a figure equivalent to the combined GDP of Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. “


"The battle for equality has been carried on by courageous women for several generations, but it is far from being won. This is not a battle of women for women. This is a struggle for all of us, for the sake of humanity", he added.


Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee Chair Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D, LT), and co-rapporteur on work-life balance, called for modernising work-life balance tools, including creating different types of parental leave that would provide adequate income replacement and social protection during any type of family or care related leave.


“Necessity to provide women with better tools to reach work-life balance is indeed the precondition for women to seek economic empowerment. That is why the European Parliament has so strongly called on the Commission to come forward with an ambitious package of both legislative and non-legislative measures on this issue”, said the Chair Vilija Blinkevičiūtė.


“We want to modernise the existing legislation (revision of Maternity leave directive, improving parental leave) and to adopt new EU directives on Paternity leave and Carers' leave”, she added.


Participants are focusing particularly on the following areas:


  • Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Freedom from violence
  • Gender-sensitive policymaking
  • Work-life balance and the gender pay gap
  • The UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

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Each year the European Parliament urges the EU and its Member States to step up their efforts to achieve equality between women and men.


In the recent years, MEPs backed a proposal to ensure gender balance on boards for publicly-listed companies with the aim of ensuring that at least 40% of their non-executive board members are women. In 2015 only 6.5% of presidents and 4.3% of CEOs in the largest publicly listed companies on the stock exchange were women.


Background

 

Women in the EU are on average better educated than men, but they are still paid less for doing the same work. The average gender pay gap in the EU 2014 was 16.7% and pension gap 40.2%. Gender employment gap is costing the EU around 370 billion euro per year or 2.8% of EU GDP.

 

An increase in gender equality and the economic empowerment of women has a positive impact on GDP growth as well as the economic success of companies.  It has been predicted that if women’s productivity level would rise to match that of men’s, the EU’s GDP could grow by 27%.

 

Women’s economic participation and empowerment are fundamental to strengthen women’s rights and enable women to have control over their lives and influence in society.