Making genuine advances in gender equality on the labour market was one of the main themes of a recent seminar arranged by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise together with other employers’ organisations from the European Union, entitled “Closing the gender gap in the labour market – root causes and the way forward”.
We need to have a broader approach than legislation to understand how gender equality is achieved in the labour market. As we heard today, companies are very active and working hard to push the boundaries and make real change to attract both women and men.
In the spirit of the European Year of Skills, Swedish Enterprise organised the seminar at the European Parliament on June 7th together with employers’ organisations from Denmark, Germany and Poland. The seminar was intended to apply a broad-based view on gender equality in the labour market and how greater equality can be achieved.
Improving gender equality is a key issue for companies seeking to attract skilled and competent employees from among potential female and male employees. To be an attractive employer and workplace for both genders is of vital importance to stay competitive and innovative. Strategies to achieve gender equality in practice were discussed in a panel consisting of representatives from Volvo Cars, BASF and Deutsche Bahn as well as a male specialist intensive care nurse for premature babies at Rigshospitalet Copenhagen.
Birgitta Söderberg presented an example of concrete initiative taken by Volvo Cars offering its employees 24 weeks of paid parental leave worldwide. This is perhaps not so impressive for Swedes in general, who are entitled to far more parental leave through Sweden’s generous welfare system, but this is a unique benefit particularly for men and women in many other countries.
Today’s seminar has shown us that companies from different countries in the EU want to see a change and are working hard to drive progress forward. Society needs to do its part as well and ensure that stereotypes and lack of key services, such as affordable childcare, don’t hinder men’s and women’s ambitions on the labour market.
In addition to strategic initiatives and specific steps among the companies that attended the seminar, the importance of services such as daycare and parental leave for male and female parents were highlighted as key factors to enabling women and men to balance work and family responsibilities. A second conclusion of the panel was the importance of breaking educational stereotypes and traditional occupational choices to open up careers for women and men and thereby close the gender gap
The panel also agreed on the importance of changing educational stereotypes and traditional occupational choices to open up careers for both women and men as a way to close the gender gap. Patrick Namisi, the specialist nurse, gave examples of how preconceptions during the education made some of the other male students to drop out form the program or search for alternative occupations. Iga Wasilewicz from BASF raised a similar perspective, this time about the lack of female students in STEEM-educations, as a challenge when trying to recruit women.
John Ekberg from the Swedish National Mediation Office initiated the seminar and the panel discussion by presenting an overview of the wage gap between women and men in the EU. Generally, the pay gap between men and women is shrinking over time, although considerable differences persist in certain countries. Ekberg noted that the reality is very complex and that many factors determine women’s and men’s wages, as well as the gap between them. From a European perspective, he highlighted the unequal distribution of paid and unpaid work as one of the causes of unequal pay.Gender EqualityEU