Gender Mainstreaming in EU Policy – Long Way to Go

Gender Mainstreaming in EU Policy – Long Way to Go

Gender mainstreaming, one of the main pillars of the European Union’s policy has had little impact on gender equality in the media sector, declared participants at the EFJ Conference “Women Journalists in the European Integration Process“ in May 2005 in Cyprus. Women journalists suffer most from falling social standards, cuts in pay and increasing hours of work. There is a persistent lack of support to reconcile work and family needs and women often suffer from bullying and harassment. Women journalists are among those most affected by the growth of precarious freelance work. In fact, the first political goal of the European Community from 1957 on behalf of equality – equal pay for equal work – has still not been achieved in the year 2005.

Highlighting some of these issues during the EFJ Conference, Cécile Gréboval from the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) also listed some of the recommendations from the EWL that would go some way in reducing these gaps.

Ms Gréboval pointed out that since the creation of the European Community in 1957, legislation on equality between women and men has made extensive progress. What started out as a guarantee of equal pay now extends to cover all forms of gender discrimination at the workplace. In the Treaty of Amsterdam 1997 the principle of equality between women and men, extending beyond the issue of pay, was for the first time introduced as one of the basic objectives in the European Treaties. It also introduced the gender mainstreaming strategy: in all activities the EU should “aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality between men and women”. The Treaty, an article on discrimination in general, also makes reference to discrimination on grounds of gender. The progress achieved in this instance was due to the lobbying efforts of many women’s organisations across Europe.

During the last three decades, EU-Directives have gradually been adopted, establishing a more detailed legal framework for equality of opportunity and rights in relation to pay and other conditions of employment, said Ms Gréboval. Directives are "laws" adopted at the European level, which must be transposed into national legislation in all of the member states, and a national law that contravenes a Directive must be changed.

A significant point raised by Ms Gréboval was that while the European Union Treaty provides for strong gender equality provisions, there is no binding provision for gender equality in political decision-making in the European institutions or in fighting violence against women.

Another lacuna she pointed out was that there is no specific European legislation on women and the media, although some general texts mention discrimination based on gender. The ‘Television without Frontiers Directive’ (of 1989 amended in 1997) states that “Television advertising and tele-shopping shall not include any discrimination on grounds of race, sex or nationality.” It also obliges member states to “ensure that broadcasts do not contain any incitement to hatred on ground of race, sex, religion or nationality”.

In 1998, the Council of Ministers of the European Union adopted a Recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity in audio-visual and information services. A proposal for an additional recommendation was made in April 2004, which slightly reinforces the gender aspect of the text by recommending that Member States and the industries concerned “develop effective measures to avoid discrimination based on sex” and “combat such discrimination and promote a diversified and realistic picture of the skills and potential of women and men in society.”

Focusing on the difficulty in moving forward on European gender equality legislation concerning media, Ms Gréboval reminded the participants that a draft proposal by the Commission for a Directive on gender equality in 2003 included provisions against discrimination based on sex and incitement to hatred on grounds of sex in the media and for the respect of human dignity in advertising. Unfortunately, these provisions were not included in the official proposal for a directive adopted by the Commission which now specifically excludes the media (Article 3.3: “This Directive shall not apply to the content of media and advertising or to education”).

Having identified the gaps, Ms Gréboval proceeded to present recommendations identified by the European Women’s Lobby. There are:

1. One of the major obstacles that the EWL encountered when it tried to map and analyse the situation of women in the media in Europe was the scarcity of research and recent comparable data. The creation of a European Gender Institute may help improve the situation. The future Gender Institute would also cover the issue of gender and the media.

2. Women’s employment in the media under European and national legislation on gender equality does not lead to genuine equality between women and men in practice. The obstacles here are similar to the ones encountered by women in the labour market in general: discrimination at the stage of recruitment; discrimination in employment conditions (gap in wages, lack of access to training, glass ceiling etc); sexual harassment; issues linked to balancing family and professional life and gender stereotypes. Another problematic aspect which also concerns women in other sectors, is the growing insecurity of the job market.

3. In terms of decision-making, while women represent 50 per cent of media consumers and while a substantial number of women are involved in careers in the sector, men continue to hold the large majority of decision-making positions in the media industry.

4. The portrayal of women and the responsibility of the media in relation to gender equality needs to be tackled. The media are powerful producers of symbolic norms and values and play an important role in the socialisation of people. Naturally, the media can and should play a positive role in relation to awareness raising and information about rights.

It is hoped that policies of gender mainstreaming will realistically address gender inequalities and have a practical impact on the lives of working women.


For More information contact:

Annegret Witt-Barthel

IFJ-Gender Council

European Co-ordinator

For more information on the European Women’s Lobby visit: