The Role of Women in the European Workforce Remains the Subject of Debate and Change More Than It Has Ever Been in Recent Decades.
While in the past women were often confined to domestic and subordinate roles, today we are witnessing a significant transformation of women’s work in Europe. European women have been fighting for gender equality on the workplace for many years. Post-war, women were often involved in care and domestic work, with limited career opportunities but, during the 1960s and 1970s, there was a significant change, with the emergence of the feminist movement and the adoption of laws against gender discrimination.
In recent decades, women’s participation in the European labour market has significantly increased. In 2021, the European Commission reported that the percentage of women working in the European Union was 67.4%, an increase compared to the past. This increase is due in part to cultural and social changes that have encouraged women to pursue careers outside of the traditional role of homemaker. While European women work in a wide range of sectors, some professions continue to be a female domain such as, for example, healthcare and education, with a significant presence of women in the roles of nurses, teachers and social workers. However, in recent years, more and more women have earned a place in traditionally male-dominated sectors, such as technology and engineering, often filling managerial roles with absolute success.
Despite progress, the gender pay gap remains a significant challenge in contemporary Europe. European women earn on average around 16% less than men, according to data from the European Commission, and this wage gap is due to a number of factors, including occupational segregation, women’s lack of access to leadership positions and the inequality in the distribution of family responsibilities. Many European women face the difficult challenge of balancing work and personal life, and the pressure to manage family and work responsibilities can be intense, often leading to difficult choices between career and family. In response to this challenge, many European countries have adopted work-family balance policies, such as paid parental leave and flexible working hours.
Gender policies play a crucial role in optimizing women’s employment in Europe, and many European countries have introduced gender fairness policies that promote equality in the workplace, such as promoting gender quotas on company boards and measures to combat sexual bullying. However, the effectiveness of these policies may vary from country to country. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on women’s employment in Europe with many women losing their jobs in the sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality. Additionally, many women found themselves having to manage work from home and family responsibilities in a lockdown environment, putting a strain on their work-life balance.
Another interesting aspect of women’s work in Europe is the increase in the number of women entrepreneurs who have managed to start their own businesses, contributing to innovation and economic growth across the continent. However, female entrepreneurs can still face unique challenges, such as access to financing and lack of established professional networks. Women’s work in Europe has made significant strides towards gender equality and promoting gender non-discrimination policies, reducing the wage gap and supporting women entrepreneurs are all key to ensuring a future where European women can reach their full potential in the world of work. European women are increasingly present in the workforce and are gaining positions in previously male-dominated sectors but, however, important challenges remain to be addressed, such as the gender pay gap and work-life balance. The strength of a nation or a continent, in the future, can also be identified by the political ability to eliminate the professional gap between genders.