International Women’s Day 2024: Invest in the Teaching Profession = Invest in Women


Explore the transformative impact of investing in the teaching profession on women's empowerment and gender equality this International Women’s Day. Discover how championing teachers can drive progress and build a more equitable future in education across Europe. 

As we shine a spotlight on the challenges women face globally, we also celebrate their resilience and strength. For the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and its member organisations, these are not just annual observances but daily commitments. On this International Women’s Day, echoing the United Nations’ theme for 2024, ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’, the ETUCE demands to #MakeTeachingAttractive by breaking the cycle of undervalued and underpaid teaching professionals and by starting to invest properly in , a sector where women constitute more than 70% of employees in Europe. 

The teaching profession, despite its importance, complexity and the high level of qualifications required, is often paid much less and has a lower status in society compared to other professions with similar qualifications: across the EU, teachers’ salaries are 10.5% lower compared to average tertiary-educated workers, according to the Education and Training Monitor 2023. Considering that most of the employees in this sector are women, it exacerbates gender inequality and the gender pay gap in society. The inequality is even more pronounced considering the cost-of-living crisis, which has disproportionately affected women and workers in the public sector and exacerbated the struggle for fair compensation. On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the Chair of the ETUCE Standing Committee for Equality, Rossella Benedetti, highlighted; “The gender pay gap has a large impact on the teaching profession where women cannot afford the current cost-of-living crisis and further to ensure decent life conditions. Closing the gender gap is therefore crucial together with revising working conditions and salaries for people in the education sector.” 

In addition to the broader undervaluation of the teaching profession, pay inequalities persist within the profession itself. These disparities are exacerbated when gender inequality intersects with factors such as migratory status, ethnic origins (e.g., Roma women), and age. As outlined in the ETUCE Action Plan on Gender Equality, the inequalities are due to both horizontal and vertical segregation in the profession. Horizontal segregation refers to the higher concentration of women being employed in certain education sectors that are paid less (e.g., early childhood education) and men in others (e.g., university professorships) that are paid more. Vertical segregation, on the other hand, refers to the underrepresentation of women in higher-level, better-paid positions within the same education sector. The pension gap, a direct consequence of the pay gap, further compounds the economic disadvantages faced by women teachers.  

This year’s International Women’s Day also marks the beginning of the ETUCE’s campaign on the Attractiveness of the Teaching Profession devoted to the message ‘Embed Equality and Diversity!’. Education trade unions are working to attract a diverse range of individuals to the teaching profession, considering factors such as gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, language, religion, and migratory and citizenship status. Ensuring fair compensation is a crucial step towards attracting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce in education.  

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, ETUCE member organisations across Europe have taken various actions to promote gender equality in the teaching profession such as calling for feminist strikes and marches to demand equal pay and end sexual violence. They further offer targeted training for empowering womenstress management workshops, spreading awareness on discrimination against women and barriers in career development, a webinar on gender inequality and school failure, a gathering on primary, secondary education and higher education, and group activities with a separate international solidarity message to Women and Girls around the world, specifically to women in Gaza. Furthermore, this year, International Women’s Day occurs right before the meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which starts on March 11, where important themes will be addressed on Accelerating Gender Equality and Empowerment and Social Protection Systems and Sustainable Infrastructure, and where the delegation from Education International will be representing the rights of women from the education sector.  

Together, we can invest in women, accelerate progress, and build a more equitable future for all in the education sector. Happy International Women’s Day!