Today, 8 March 2019, women across Europe, and around the world, are taking to the streets to mark International Women’s Day (IWD). The theme of this year’s campaign is #balanceforbetter, and focuses on the creation of a gender-balanced future where women are equally represented in the labour market and in positions of leadership. Likewise, UNWomen have chosen “think equal, build smart, innovate for change” for this year’s celebration, aimed at shedding light on innovative ways to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women.

At ETUCE, research conducted within the framework of the project Empowering education trade unions to address gender equality in the teaching profession through social dialogue has revealed that women are still under-represented in positions of leadership in upper secondary schools and higher education (only 12% of all rectors in Europe are women) as well as within the governing bodies of education trade unions themselves. Education trade unions are fully committed to the promotion of gender-balanced societies and are actively taking part in this year’s campaign. Some of the activities of member organisations in Europe concern for example, in the UK, where NEU sent out a survey to its members seeking their views on IWD and created twitter boards for members to express their solidarity with this year’s cause which will be spread on social media. In France, members of SNUipp-FSU are participating in the women’s strike in Paris, coordinated by the French trade union confederation, and being symbolically held at 15:40 to underline the persistent gender pay gap in the country. In Spain, FE.CC.OO has summoned a feminist strike for all teachers and students and have delivered promotional material to schools to raise awareness about the unequal working conditions in which Spanish female teachers work.

Susan Flocken, European Director, stated: “We urgently need equal representation in decision-making positions in education institutions and education trade unions. For a fairer and gender-equal teaching profession in Europe, explicit gender policies must be implemented and monitored by education trade unions.” In the framework of ETUCE and its member organisations’ campaign to the European elections in May 2019 ‘Shape the future of Europe with teachers!’, ETUCE has prepared a timeline showing when women received voting rights in countries where ETUCE member organisations are based, which can be accessed here. The European Region of Education International (EI), fully  supports the daily blog entries female education union leaders have posted this week on EI’s website which address gender and education issues, as well as the EI statement on tackling School-Related Gender-Based Violence.

ETUC urges all women to vote in the upcoming European elections and to support women candidates who promote a fairer, gender-equal Europe. What is more, at European level, concerns have been expressed about the risk of backsliding on equality between men and women.  Only one month ago, the European Parliament passed a Resolution which urged Member States, among others, to address gender segregation in the labour market, close the gender pay and pension gap, and enable women to pursue decision-making roles. The European institutions have also organised a series of events to discuss the themes at the heart of this year’s campaign.  Yesterday, 7 March, the event “Born to be leaders” took place at the Permanent Representation of Romania to the European Union, where high profile officials, national representatives and pioneering women explored ways in which the EU can support women’s careers. Today, top-level women with expertise in cybersecurity have been invited by the European Commission, DG Connect,  to engage in a panel discussion to examine the reasons for the lack of women in the cybersecurity field as well as ways to tackle this phenomenon.

For the first time, Belgian feminist organisations PeriodBrussels and Collecti.e.f 8 maars  are inviting all women in Belgium to cease work and study in order to highlight the crucial role that women play in our society. ETUCE invites education trade unions to join those who are striking today in Belgium, and across Europe for a gender-equal future.

Campaign Gender