While Luxembourg generally scores well in European and international charts for gender equality in the workplace, some believe that much more could be done to reduce the gender gap within the country’s workforce.
At the Second European Forum on Best Practices in Gender Equality on Friday, a number of experts, local politicians, university professors and company representatives discussed the importance of promoting gender equality through early training available to both males and females.
Round-table conference on the role of Gender Training in Education
Over two hours, panellists shared their views on gender discrimination and confirmed the need for improvement not only in Luxembourg, but all over the world.
Attending the event as local panel members were Colette Mart, Education Alderperson at Ville de Luxembourg and Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, Former Minister of Education, Higher Education and Research, Nicolas J. Ries, Economic Councillor and AIMS Partner, as well as Hénoké Courte-Wolde Medhin, Communal Councillor for Walferdange and History Professor and Serge Thill from accompany Luxembourg.
Moreover, Pascale Veille, Professor in Law at Louvain University, in Belgium and Anita Drohe, Inspiring Woman of The Year in Education and Assistant Director at the the Technical Institute in Arlon, were also invited to be part of the panel and discuss the issue.
Gender discrimination at work, a topical issue in Luxembourg and elsewhere
Moderated by Rosa Brignone, Expert in Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Founder of ‘‘Time for Equality’’, the conference fostered discussion on gender training in early education and the need to raise awareness of gender biases that restrict the social and economic role of both young girls and adult women.
‘‘Gender discrimination takes place everywhere. The phenomenon manifests for girls since their early childhood due to the lack of relevant training designed to teach young girls and boys how to avoid such stereotypes,’’ Rosa Brignone told wort.lu.
‘‘Girls are being discriminated by the society ever since their birth. Deeply rooted in the traditional patriarchal way of organising societies, women are still perceived as the ones solely responsible to raise children and keep the family united.’’
Mrs. Brignone further claimed that discrimination is not only external, but at times women gauge internal prejudices as to whether it is appropriate and achievable to enter a certain professional sector given their gender.
Support to reduce the gender gap available in Luxembourg
Admitting that Luxembourg has a good system in place, aimed at protecting women, especially those willing to re-enter the work place after taking maternity leave, some panellists claimed that Luxembourg must indeed change its mentality and encourage more women to wish for a successful professional life.
‘‘There are still many gender stereotypes in schoolbooks that encourage young people to find certain professions more appropriate than others based on their gender. Education is crucial in keeping information balanced and ensuring equality is in place.
I strongly believe there is a need for change in how masculinity and femininity are being portrayed in society,’’ added the conference moderator.
While Luxembourg ranks high for its political engagement when it comes to such issues, Mrs. Brignone talked about the need for academic research to be carried out and for positive models to be constantly promoted.
‘‘We all need to bring our own contribution. Gender equality is important for men and women alike to ensure that meritocracy and talent are the deciding factors in taking a job or pursuing a career.’’
The role of women in society needs to be renegotiated
Hénoké Courte Wolde Medhin, Communal Councillor for Walferdange, also expressed strong views regarding gender equality, stating that despite the numerous laws existent in Luxembourg and elsewhere, in real life, gender discrimination is a current issue, that is kept alive by a biased education system and the inequality between men and women within their own families.
‘‘We need to make sure men and women have an equal status and share family responsibilities in a fair way, which would allow women to consider having a more satisfying professional life.’’
Mrs. Courte-Wolde Medhin placed gender equality at the core of any society claiming that: ‘‘The more rights women have in a country, the better developed and socially advanced the country is.’’
Accenture Luxembourg wins ‘‘Top Company for Gender Equality’’ award in 2013
The Friday event also marked the award ceremony for the annual prize of ‘‘Top Company For Gender Equality’’ in the Greater Region which this year was given to Accenture Luxembourg.
The award came to recognise the company’s great results demonstrated in the recruitment, retention and advancement of a balanced percentage between men and women at all levels of its hierarchy.
The distinction was offered by Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg’s Minister of Labour, and Murielle Antoine, Inspiring Woman of the Year in Finance, and Managing Director of the Bank of New York Mellon in Luxembourg, the company that received the prize in 2012.
Delivering a speech on this occasion, Minister Nicolas Schmit confirmed that Luxembourg should do much more in fighting gender discrimination in the workplace, especially at a more senior level and in certain sectors that are male-dominated.
Luxembourg Labour Minister confirms the need for improvement
Mr. Schmit made reference to other European countries, and pointed out that certain states that made efforts to implement and preserve gender equality in the workplace, also experienced economic growth and welfare.
Minister Schmit also revealed that couples in Luxembourg must find a balance in the way they organise their personal and professional life.
According to official data, if individuals are engaged in family life, women are more likely to work on a part-time basis, rather than men. In Luxembourg 35% of women currently work part-time as opposed to under five percent representing part-time employed men.
For the benefit of women, men, economy and society as a whole, Nicolas Schmit highlighted the importance of fully integrating women in the workforce, who are many times still facing a glass ceiling in their professions.
Gender Equality to be achieved in the EU by 2030
Drawing a positive conclusion, Nicolas Schmit informed the audience that gender equality is set to be reached by 2030, when the European Union’s workforce will consist of 50 percent women and 50 percent men.
The half-day programme was hosted at Luxembourg’s Cercle Munster and was co-organised by Inspiring Wo-men and Chambre de Commerce, in partnership with ESSEC Business School and Sacred Heart University Alumni Association.
The European Forum on Best Practices in Gender Equality is part of the initiative ‘‘Inspiring Woman of the Year & Top Company for Gender Equality’’ awards placed under the patronage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and of Xavier Bettel, Deputy and Mayor of Luxembourg City.
Further information on the Second European Forum on Best Practices in Gender Equality is available online on http://www.inspiringwo-men.eu.
By Roxana Mironescu for wort.lu/en, a Luxembourg-based news service.