International Women's Day

Report highlights continuing workforce gender gap

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Percentage point

With the European Commission highlighting the wide gender pay gap
across the EU on Women's Day, some countries are taking action to
promote more workplace equality between the sexes.

For example in the UK a special programme has been set up to train more women managers in the food and drink processing industry, a traditionally male dominated profession, especially at the top. According to a new Commission report released yesterday, three out of four new jobs created in the EU are being taken by women, but important gaps with men remain. Despite their higher educational achievements, women continue to be employed less - and paid less - than men, the report finds. Their employment rate remains 15 percentage points lower than men's and they continue to face an average pay gap of 15 per cent across the EU. The increase in female employment is mainly in sectors and jobs already dominated by women and which are generally less well paid. Women also face greater difficulties in reaching decision-making positions, according to the study. Women's employment rate now stands at 56.3 per cent - or 2.7 percentage points above the 2000 level. This compares with a 0.1 percentage point rise for men over the same period, according to the report. Cyprus has the largest pay gap between women and men in the EU. In Cyprus women pay is on average 25 per cent lower than men's, followed by Estonia and Slovakia (24% less each), Germany (22%), the UK (20%), Czech Republic (19%). In Austria and the Netherlands the have an 18% pay gap. In the UK's food and drink sector, an industry sector organisation is attempting to lower the gap in that country. Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, was awarded £500,000 in public funding to subsidise training that will be channeled to help 500 women employees achieve a management qualification within the next two years. Improve is one of the first five sector skills councils to secure funding to spearhead the programme, which aims to encourage women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated industries. Food and drink manufacturing has long been a male-dominated industry, especially at management level, said Jack Matthews, Improve's chief executive. "Currently just 23 per cent of the sector's managers are women,"​ he said in a statement. "This project will equip women with the skills and knowledge to take on more senior roles, helping to increase their earning potential and further their career development."​ Improve will work directly with 25 food and drink manufacturers, providing tailored training for existing female employees to help them achieve a management qualification. Pat O'Driscoll, chief executive of Northern Foods, has agreed to participate in the project. "This is a fantastic opportunity that will allow us to provide a number of our female workers with extra training at a reduced cost," she said. "The skills they learn will help them to climb the career ladder, allowing them to take on more senior positions." Meanwhile the UK's Chilled Food Association today announced it had appointed Helen Sisson, group technical director of the Greencore Group, as the first woman to chair the organisation. Sisson was appointed group technical director at Greencore in 2004, having previously held a number of technical and operational roles within the company. She is responsible for all aspects of food safety, health and safety and the environment. She also leads the company's health agenda and "Food First" programme.

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