Gender equality proceeding ‘at snail’s pace’

Man and woman on same-size coin stacks


Gender equality across Europe has proceeded very slowly in the last 10 years, with the UK ranking sixth, according to a new study.

The Gender Equality Index report from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) measures progress on a range of issues, from decision-making to gender equality in the home. It says the EU’s score is just four points higher than 10 years ago, now 66.2 out of 100. The top -performing country is Sweden with a score of 82.6, compared to the UK which has a score of 71.5, putting it behind other countries including France, Finland and Denmark. The UK ranks high for health [93.1], while for knowledge it is on 71.8 and 53 on power. Greece moved to the bottom with 50 points. The award for the most improved country goes to Italy, which made a big leap and gained 12.9 points to place itself at rank 14 on the ladder.

“We are moving forward at a snail’s pace. We are still a long way off from reaching a gender-equal society and all countries in the European Union have room to improve. In some areas, the gaps are even bigger than ten years ago. Our Gender Equality Index clearly shows whether government policies are matching the specific needs of women and men and whether they are working or not”, said Virginija Langbakk, Director of EIGE.

The report shows the biggest boost for gender equality over the last 10 years has been in the area of decision-making, especially in the private sector, for instance, the number of women on boards. However, although gender equality in decision-making improved by nearly 10 points over the past decade to reach 48.5, it still has the lowest score. The report says this largely reflects the uneven representation of women and men in politics and marks a democratic deficit in EU governance.

In addition to political and economic decision-making, the results show who rules in the areas of media, research and sports. In the media it finds that there are more women who study journalism (two thirds of graduates are female) but that few make it to the top. The decision-makers in the media are mostly men (women make up 22% of board presidents of public broadcasters in the EU). In the area of research funding, women make up less than a third (27 %) of the heads of research funding organisations. The situation is even worse in the sports sector, where women hold only 14% of top positions in the sports federations across the EU.

In the domestic sphere, women are still doing the lion’s share of housework, says the  report. Only every third man engages daily in cooking and housework, compared to almost every women (79%). Men also have more time for sporting, cultural and leisure activities. Migrant women have an especially high burden when it comes to caring for family members, compared to women born in the EU (46% and 38% respectively).

For the first time, this edition of the Index shows gaps among different groups of women and men. Depending on a person’s age, education, country of birth, disability and family type their life can be completely different to the rest of the population. For example, people with a migrant background are twice at risk of poverty than women and men born in the EU. Young men are missing out on educational opportunities compared to young women and lone mothers have more difficulties to access health and dental services than couples with children.

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