Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brüssel 21.09.2010

Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015


The European Union’s achievements in fostering equality between women and men have helped to change the lives of many European citizens for the better and provide the foundation on which we now have to build a genuinely gender-equal society. In 1975, the principle of equal pay for equal work was successfully invoked to defend Gabrielle Defrenne, who was an air hostess working for the Belgian national airline, and the rights stemming from the Defrenne case are an unshakable legacy for women in the European Union. The case led to the adoption of the first European directives on gender equality.

Some encouraging recent trends include the increased number of women on the labour market and their progress in securing better education and training. However, gender gaps remain in many areas and in the labour market women are still overrepresented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions. Parenthood keeps female employment rates down, and women continue to work more unpaid hours than men at home.

Inequalities between women and men violate fundamental rights. They also impose a heavy toll on the economy and result in underutilisation of talent. On the other hand, economic and business benefits can be gained from enhancing gender equality1. In order to achieve the objectives of Europe 20202, namely smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the potential and the talent pool of women need to be used more extensively and more efficiently.

Gender roles continue to influence crucial individual decisions: on education, on career paths, on working arrangements, on family and on fertility. These decisions in turn have an impact on the economy and society. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to offer genuine choices equally for women and men throughout the different stages of their lives.

Equality is one of five values on which the Union is founded. The Union is bound to strive for equality between women and men in all its activities3. The Charter of Fundamental Rights4 provides for such equality and prohibits sex discrimination. In March 2010, to mark the 15th anniversary of the declaration and platform for action adopted at the Beijing UN World Conference on Women and the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Commission adopted the Women’s Charter5, in which the Commission renewed its commitment to gender equality and to strengthening the gender perspective in all its policies.

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