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27 November 2006
PE 378.655v03-00 A6-0416/2006

on educational discrimination against young women and girls


Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

Rapporteur: Věra Flasarová



on educational discrimination against young women and girls


The European Parliament,

–    reaffirming the principles laid down in Articles 2, 3(2), 13, 137(1)(i), and 141 of the EC Treaty,

–    having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union proclaimed in 2000, and in particular Article 23 thereof,

–    having regard to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950,

–    having regard to the Commission communication of 1 June 2005 entitled " Non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all - A framework strategy" (COM(2005)0224),

–    having regard to the Commission communications of 19 February 2004 (COM(2004)0115) and of 14 February 2005 (COM(2005)0044) on equality between men and women,

–    having regard to the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006 on further European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education (2006/143/EC)(1),

–    having regard to the Commission communication of 5 February 2003 entitled ‘The role of the universities in the Europe of knowledge’ (COM(2003)0058),

–    having regard to the Council recommendation of 24 September 1998 on European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education (98/561/EC)(2),

–    having regard to the recommendations of the Council of Europe, and in particular its resolution and action plan adopted at the Sixth European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men held in Stockholm on 8-9 June 2006,

–    having regard to the Ministerial Declaration of Athens made at the 1992 European Conference on Women in Power, which states that ‘women represent half the potential talents and skills of humanity’,

–    having regard to the Ministerial Declaration of the Conference of Ministers of Gender Equality held in Luxembourg on 4 February 2005,

–    having regard to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,

–    having regard to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular MDG3 on promoting gender equality and empowering women as a prerequisite to, among other things, achieving equality at all levels of education and in all areas of work,

–    having regard to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1999, which states that individuals or groups of individuals, under the jurisdiction of a State Party, claiming to be victims of a violation of any of the rights set forth in the Convention by that State Party may submit communications to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,

–    having regard to the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995, the Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted in Beijing and the subsequent outcome documents adopted at the successive United Nations Beijing + 5 and United Nations Beijing +10 Special Sessions on further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration adopted on 9 June 2000 and the Platform for Action adopted on 11 March 2005,

–    having regard to the document Equality between women and men: contributions towards the organisation of activities at European level for the years 2004-2005,

–    having regard to the Commission communication of 7 June 2000 entitled "Towards a Community framework strategy on gender equality (2001-2005) (COM(2000)0413),

–    having regard to the reports and speeches of the Committee on Culture and Education and of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality,

–    having regard to the Commission communication of 1 March 2006 entitled "Roadmap for equality between women and men 2006-2010" (COM(2006)0092),

–    having regard to the UNESCO Education For All global monitoring reports of 2003/2004, 2005 and 2006,

–    having regard to its resolutions of 28 April 2005 on the situation of the Roma in the European Union(3) and of 1 June 2006 on the situation of Roma women in the European Union(4),

–    having regard to the Declaration on the Decade of Roma inclusion 2005-2015, signed in Sofia on 2 February 2005,

–    having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–    having regard to the report of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A6-0416/2006),

A.     whereas statistics from the Member States indicate a lower proportion of women than men are obtaining postgraduate qualifications, and whereas it is reported that a lower number of women than men are undertaking life-long learning on account of diverse gender-related restrictions,

B.     whereas household and family tasks are still performed largely by women, and consequently the time available to them for further training and life-long learning is limited,

C.     whereas access to education, and in particular higher education, is especially difficult for young people from low-income families, leading to a reinforcement of the traditional preference for education for boys,

D.     whereas the significant progress made in gender equality in education mainly relates to positive quantitative developments, i.e. an increase in the numbers of women gaining access to all levels of education, without a corresponding qualitative development as regards selection of courses of study and specialities, mainly due to social perceptions and the traditional roles of the sexes,

E.     whereas education is an important European value, fundamental right, and a key instrument for social inclusion; whereas challenges and certain prejudices against educated women continue to exist in society, and whereas educated women often do not find opportunities to fulfil their potential in professional and public life,

F.     whereas in certain cultures traditional and religious prejudices still exist, restricting girls’ and young women’s access to education,

G.     whereas the media repeatedly perpetuates gender stereotypes and traditional images of women are thereby reinforced,

H.     whereas access to education for girls and young women from national minorities, and in particular from the Roma minority, or for girls and young women from immigrant groups is particularly limited and/or often characterised by discrimination and segregation in schools, including remedial learning programmes, with few resources, unmotivated and untrained staff, poor infrastructure and inadequate educational programmes and testing methods,

I.      whereas many Member States lack adequately funded education budgets and at the same time most of the teaching is done by women,

1.      Points out that education and training of girls and women is a human right and an essential element for the full enjoyment of all other social, economic, cultural and political rights;

2.      Welcomes the fact that an average of eight out of ten girls studying at higher education establishments in the Member States complete their studies and that statistics indicate equal opportunities for both sexes in terms of obtaining higher education and indeed a higher level of motivation among women when they are not restricted by reasons of gender;

3.      Points out that in education and research, women outnumber men as graduates (59%), yet their presence decreases consistently as they progress on the career ladder, from 43% of PhDs down to only 15% of full professors;

4.      Welcomes the fact that several practical steps have been taken as part of the UN Millennium Project to reduce gender inequality in terms of access to education and that the issue of equal access to education for both sexes is being debated openly in the Member States;

5.      Welcomes the reform of the university education system arising from the Lisbon strategy and relating in particular to life-long learning, which provides young women with the opportunity to continue their education;

6.      Welcomes the Commission’s report on the quality of school education, published in 2000, which analyses 16 indicators, including access to education from the point of view of gender;

7.      Welcomes the planned creation of an Institute for Gender Equality, whose activities should include monitoring the situation as regards access to education for both sexes in individual Member States and throughout the world;

8.      Recommends that policy in the area of equal access to education be evaluated on the basis of an assessment of gender-differentiated statistics, so as better to highlight and resolve the inequalities that persist in gaining access to and obtaining certain higher academic qualifications, including at postgraduate level and in scientific research, as well as in the area of life-long learning;

9.      Calls on the Member States to facilitate access to education for women and men who are looking after children and for parents who have interrupted the process of obtaining a qualification to have children;

10.    Recommends dialogue with the social partners, with a view to motivating them to create favourable conditions for improving access to education and lifelong learning for women who have interrupted their training and women who have few qualifications;

11.    Refers to the fact that the pay gap between women and men remains at an unacceptably high level and shows no significant signs of being closed; points out that on average women earn 15% less than men, which is the result both of non-compliance with equal pay legislation and a number of structural inequalities such as labour market segregation, differences in work patterns, access to education and training, biased evaluation and pay systems and stereotypes;

12.    Calls on the Commission and the Member States to use all available means to eliminate common stereotypes that discriminate against women in the workplace, something which is particularly in evidence in the field of science and technology, where women are very poorly represented, to pay particular attention to gender issues and to monitor and evaluate data regularly;

13.    Calls on the Member States to encourage women's access to positions of responsibility and decision-making in public and private undertakings, paying particular attention to academic positions;

14.    Encourages the Commission to promote the principles of equality and equal access to education for girls in its relations with third countries, and in particular in its neighbourhood and development aid policies;

15.    Urges the Member States to strengthen the position of female teachers at higher levels of the education system and centres of decision-making on educational issues, where their male colleagues are still in the majority;

16.    Stresses the need to reform the syllabus at all levels of education and the content of school textbooks; recommends that the training of teachers and of other educational workers be directed towards fulfilling the requirements of a balanced gender policy and that gender policy issues form part of the training of teachers at teacher-training and other faculties;

17.    Recommends that the Commission and the Member States implement a policy for national, ethnic and cultural minorities, and in particular the Roma minority, which allows access to quality education and equal conditions in education for boys and girls, including pre-school and zero grade programmes, paying particular attention to a multicultural approach that facilitate the integration of young women and girls from minorities and immigrant groups into the regular education system, with a view to combating double discrimination;

18.    Calls on the Council, the Commission and the Member States to take all necessary action to protect the rights of immigrant women and immigrant girls and to combat the discrimination they face in their community of origin by rejecting all forms of cultural and religious relativism which could violate women's fundamental rights;

19.    Recommends that the Member States support awareness-raising of equal access to education at all levels, particularly among vulnerable communities, with the objective of eliminating all forms of prejudice affecting girls’ and young women’s access to education;

20.    Recommends to the Member States that they adapt their study programmes to the needs of young people with jobs, and to those of people, particularly girls and women, caring for small children or on maternity leave; considers that current technical possibilities make it possible for appropriate solutions to be found;

21.    Calls for greater efforts to recognise cognitively gifted girls or young women and to provide better support for them;

22.    Welcomes the implementation and use of educational programmes financed by EU funds, as well as other sources including the not-for-profit sector, to benefit the education of girls and young women from socially disadvantaged families; welcomes in particular the use of existing programmes and support funds, as well as the search for new forms of funding; at the same time emphasises the need in all the Member States to invest much more in the education of young people with a view to the future;

23.    Proposes that the Member States make use of the gender budgeting instrument in their budget and thereby compensate for gender-specific injustices, which will benefit the field of education above all;

24.    Recommends that the Member States create and monitor national educational policies that enable all girls, as well as boys, to enter, remain in and complete compulsory schooling, ensuring that they remain in school until they have reached the minimum legal age to enter the labour market;

25.    Points out the vital need for the accurate evaluation of statistical data on gender issues, as well as on other aspects of multiple discrimination such as ethnicity, particularly given that there is not always statistically differentiated data on gender relating to children and young people; considers that this should be one of the tasks of, among others, the new Institute for Gender Equality;

26.    Calls on the Member States to encourage the positive presentation of gender categories in the media by putting forward a dignified image of women and men, free from prejudiced and distorted concepts that end up detracting from or undervaluing one or both of the sexes;

27.    Points out the need to adapt new technologies in the area of training to women’s educational needs, for example the possibility of distance learning using computer technology;

28.    Calls on the Member States and the Commission to take steps to put an end to the gender digital divide as part of the Lisbon strategy, with the aim of extending the information society through measures to promote equality between men and women and actions to provide easier access for women, boosting the acquisition of e-capacities, carrying out programmes that provide for specific actions to include women from vulnerable groups and compensate for imbalances between urban and rural areas;

29.    Recommends that the Member States develop more flexible adult education and lifelong learning programmes so that working women and mothers are able to continue their education in programmes that fit in with their schedules, thus allowing women to have increased access to education and the opportunity to participate in alternative educational programmes so that they may become more independent and are able to participate meaningfully in society, further promoting gender equality;

30.    Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission.


OJ L 64, 4.3.2006, p. 60.


OJ L 270, 7.10.1998, p. 56.


OJ C 45 E, 23.2.2006, p. 129.


Texts Adopted, 1.6.2006, P6_TA(2006)0244.


The enlargement of the European Union not only has social, cultural and economic aspects, but also poses a challenge in terms of resolving the problems of gender inequality in the various regions of Europe. These issues feature among the priorities of the Lisbon strategy. In my report I focus on the value of obtaining an education and of deepening it throughout one’s life in order to fulfil one’s potential in society. Although it has long been proven that women and girls are no less capable than men and boys in the field of education, there are a number of reasons why women and girls are at a disadvantage in terms of access to education, particularly to higher education and to life-long learning. These reasons are often considered to be natural and relate to women’s biological make-up. However, European society is sufficiently culturally and economically developed that it has measures available to it that could diminish significantly, or indeed eliminate, the objective obstacles created by women’s biological and family role, not to mention the obstacles created by deep-rooted tradition and religious or gender-based prejudices.

A.     Basic information on the situation concerning the access to education of young women and girls

In terms of equal opportunities for both genders, there are seven main factors that give rise to discrimination against young women and girls in terms of access to education: (1) economic considerations in socially disadvantaged families favouring education for boys; (2) gender-based prejudices in the choice of field of study; (3) objective gender-based reasons hindering the completion of studies; (4) gender-based reasons preventing young women from raising their level of qualification through further study; (5) society’s prejudices against educated women; (6) a lower level of professional recognition of women with higher education; (7) religious prejudices preventing women from fulfilling their potential in society in certain countries; (8) difficulties concerning access to education for girls and young women from immigrant backgrounds or belonging to ethnic or national minorities.

In 2004, eight out of ten girls studying at higher education establishments in EU Member States completed their studies. That is higher than for boys, for whom the figure is only three quarters of the total number, which proves that girls and young women are no less motivated or capable than boys and young men when it comes to receiving an education. However, the proportion of girls and young women continuing their education or engaged in academic careers decreases. Whereas the proportion of women to men in university-level education is 59 % to 41 %, only 43 % of those awarded doctoral titles, and a mere 15 % of those awarded professorial titles, are women. These figures demonstrate the marked inequality between the sexes in terms of life-long learning. A similar situation exists after the completion of university studies in the area of continued education for women outside the academic sphere, confirming that both phenomena have the same causes, which are rooted in longstanding gender inequality.

The ‘natural’ reasons limiting women’s access to higher education, to academic qualifications and to life-long learning include being a mother and having a family. Viewing these two assets as objective obstacles is a traditional misunderstanding in equal opportunities, which applies in almost all EU Member States and is indeed a worldwide phenomenon. Moreover, this view is shared equally by both men and women.

Caring for children and for a family in some cases has the effect of lowering women’s interest in continuing the education process. Many women who interrupt their studies when they have children abandon the idea of continuing their education altogether.

Despite EU policy that strives to improve the social situation of families, there remains a large percentage of families whose situations rule out the possibility of providing their children with higher education. Sadly, it is not always possible to find a solution to social handicaps through state aid or from EU funding in the form of scholarships, grants, loans and other types of support. The opinion persists among socially disadvantaged families that education is a luxury that they cannot afford. In keeping with traditional prejudices towards both sexes, boys are often given preference over girls.

When it comes to choosing a field of study, there are a number of established prejudices relating to the ‘natural’ dispositions of both sexes, according to which boys and men are generally more technically minded than girls. That being the case, there are still certain areas of study in which one gender predominates to the detriment of the other. This viewpoint also affects the subsequent choice of employment because there are still a number of stereotypes as to what are ‘appropriate’ jobs for men and women alike.

In addition, there is a widespread belief that ‘typical’ women’s jobs are worse paid. This stereotype concerns professions such as nurse or primary- or secondary-school teacher. Many professions are subject to gender inequality of this kind.

One major problem that discriminates against women and girls in education is the position of educated and qualified women in the professional environment. In the workplace, women who are qualified to fill a management role are seen by men as a potential threat. This is also related to the traditional conception of men as breadwinners, and as such as earning more. A woman aspiring to a higher position in a professional environment, and therefore to higher pay, is someone who is breaking the rules and taking resources away from men.

A similar problem is the position of educated and successful women in families. In this area, too, the opinion often prevails that the man is the more successful of the two partners. Even for many women this model is taken to be natural, and women themselves are keen to avoid problems. Disagreements of this kind between partners can be an often hidden, and therefore all the more serious, reason for a breakdown in relations. Women find themselves in a difficult situation, which they often resolve by giving up on having a career and on further education.

Even though there is no legal restriction in EU Member States on young women’s and girls’ access to education, obstacles arise where there are religious traditions and dogmatic postulates, or where traditional inequality between the sexes is more deeply ingrained. These aspects are particularly marked in rural areas of Europe, in regions with strong religious feeling and in countries where the question of equal opportunities has yet to be paid sufficient attention.

One of the factors that restrict access to education is student mobility. Studying, particularly at a higher education establishment, often involves unavoidable travelling, meaning that here, too, factors come into play that put girls and young women at a disadvantage compared with boys and men. In many European countries it is still difficult for women and girls to travel alone in society as freely as boys and men. Women and girls can be viewed as an object of sexual interest or can be the victims of violence.

Access to education for girls and young women from immigrant groups or members of ethnic or national minorities is limited. This fact is very often the result of quantitative factors relating to the number of educational establishments offering education in the languages of those groups and therefore is not evidence of direct discrimination. However, people from these groups are at a certain disadvantage for linguistic reasons if they are taught at schools that use what for them is a foreign language. This is a particular problem for the Roma population in certain EU Member States, given that, in the absence of a Roma education system, Roma children must learn in a language other than their own.

B.     Community policy on discrimination against young women and girls in terms of their access to education

The principle of equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of Community law, laid down in Article 2 and Article 3(2) of the Treaty and clarified by the case-law of the European Court of Justice. Under the Treaty, equality between men and women is one of the Community’s specific tasks and objectives, and the Community is actively to promote such equality in all fields of Community action.

Amongst other documents, the Commission has published a ‘Roadmap for equality between women 2006 – 2010’, chapter 5 of which includes reference to the elimination of gender stereotypes in education, training and culture. The document indicates that, in EU Member States, the trend of overcoming common stereotypes in the area of equal opportunities at work is continuing. EU policy, according to the report, must take into account the fact that gender stereotypes should be combated from an early age, including as regards discrimination of girls and young women in education. Equal opportunities policy must therefore start in the school environment and family upbringing. The training of teachers and education workers at teacher-training and other faculties should be adapted to this end. In preparing future teachers for professional life, greater emphasis should be placed on gender issues. The education and training system must provide young people with appropriate and balanced education regardless of gender, and the issue of gender should also be reflected in how content is structured and in the design of textbooks in all types of schools and curricula.

This report concentrates on the most visible aspects of possible discrimination against girls and young women in terms of their access to education. The rapporteur is aware that the EU is not a homogeneous whole in terms of the approach to and understanding of gender issues, rather that differences exist arising from cultural traditions and religion. While these regional differences will gradually disappear as a result of positive developments in all EU Member States, they will also increase again with the accession of more Member States due to join in the near future. These new Member States in particular will certainly add new and complex aspects to gender issues as they will mostly be countries influenced by the complicated cultural and religious situation in the Balkans. The rapporteur is therefore of the opinion that the importance of finding appropriate gender solutions, not least in the area of education, will continue to grow in the European Union.



Educational discrimination against young women and girls

Procedure number


Committee responsible
  Date authorisation announced in plenary


Committee(s) asked for opinion(s)
  Date announced in plenary







Not delivering opinion(s)
  Date of decision

CULT 12.7.2006





  Date appointed

Věra Flasarová



Previous rapporteur(s)



Discussed in committee






Date adopted


Result of final vote







Members present for the final vote

Edit Bauer, Hiltrud Breyer, Maria Carlshamre, Ilda Figueiredo, Věra Flasarová, Lívia Járóka, Piia-Noora Kauppi, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Siiri Oviir, Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, Marie-Line Reynaud, Teresa Riera Madurell, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Amalia Sartori, Eva-Britt Svensson, Anne Van Lancker, Corien Wortmann-Kool, Anna Záborská

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, Anna Hedh, Zita Pleštinská

Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote

Albert Deß

Date tabled


(available in one language only)


Последно осъвременяване: 30 ноември 2006 г.Правна информация