International Women’s Day: women teachers, ‘invisible superheroes’ or taking the lead?


This 8 March, on International Women’s Day (IWD), ETUCE and its member organisations honour women teachers and highlight the tireless and multi-tasking work they perform, everyday, for their students, families, and for the whole society in general. Under the slogan #MoreThanATeacher, education trade unions across Europe mobilise with a social media campaign, videoclips, seminars, studies and research to raise awareness on the women teacher’s status and support these ‘invisible superheroes’. A full collection of trade unions’ national activities and testimonies from teachers  can be found on the ETUCE website in the framework of the project ‘Trade Unions and Inclusive Schools: Embracing Diversity in Education’.

Women’s status in our society is devaluated, and women face persisting inequalities in education as well as in the economic, decision-making and political sector, including within trade unions. Additionally, women, and particularly female teachers, have been disproportionally affected by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. As EIGE data shows, the pandemic caused for women a significant increase in unpaid care work, precarious employment schemes, increased gender-based violence and harassment, as well as less training opportunities. Besides, ETUCE member organisations report that online and hybrid teaching also resulted in women teachers facing increased workload, unsustainable work-life balance and psychological distress.

On the occasion, ETUCE European Director, Susan Flocken, launches an appeal “The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the tremendous work of women in the teaching profession and other sectors. At the same time, it has magnified gender inequalities within the education sector and our societies. Yet, women do not receive the recognition for all their work and often find themselves exposed to precarious employment, low pay, harassment, and exclusion from the decision-making level. The contribution of women to the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is critical to building a more equitable society and inclusive education systems. ETUCE supports women taking the lead for a recovery aiming at a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive future”.

To tackle all the aspects of gender inequalities in education and within trade unions, ETUCE adopted, in 2020, its new Action Plan on Gender Equality. In the framework of its implementation, at the ETUCE-ETUI online training programme on ensuring gender equality at the decision-making level, trade union representatives supported ETUCE action for IWD by sharing posters and messages that highlighted the many roles that women teachers play every day. 

To celebrate IDW, many actions and initiatives are also organised at the international and European level. Education International (EI) published a blog highlighting the importance of women’s leadership in education unions and a video-message by EI’s top women political leaders and the regional women’s networks on achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. The European Parliament organises a special inter-parliamentary Committee meeting “We are strong: Women leading the fight against COVID-19”, while the European Commission launched the long-waited Proposal for a Gender-Pay Transparency directive that introduces the obligation for employers to be more transparent on pay information. Once improved, the directive will give trade unions new channels to fight against gender-pay gap. Also, to mark the 1st anniversary of the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-25, the Portuguese presidency organised the webinar “Gender equality as a driver for recovery” to make a stoke of the strategy in light of new EIGE data on the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.