International Women’s Day: #BreakTheBias starts with men

Wage trends in some Council of Europe member states over a recent 12-year period reflect the improvements gender pay gap. Eurostat, for example, reported a decline in the gender pay gap in the Czech Republic, from just over 26% in 2008 to less than 16.5% in 2020. In Cyprus, the figure was 19.5% in 2008, but it has fallen to less than half. — to nine percent — by 2020. But not all the news is good.

Over the same period, little or no change was reported for other countries. And for the 27 EU Member States, only one in three members of national governments and parliaments, regional executives and assemblies and local councils was a woman in 2020.

To achieve equal pay for equal work, men must act. Whether as co-workers, employers, policy makers, law enforcement officials or advocates for change – as brothers, husbands, fathers and sons – they should raise awareness of the pay gap. We can start by ending harmful gender stereotypes and sexism that often lead to unequal pay. Sexism is a strategic priority of the current Council of Europe strategy for equality between women and men. The Council of Europe promotes equality between women and men as a human right, enshrined in many of our legal instruments. Our Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration last year calling on all member states to guarantee equal pay for equal work, but we can only succeed with more support from the people of our world. Both men and women can support effective legal action that warns companies to uphold equal pay principles.

Take for example a UK employment tribunal earlier this year that awarded banker Stacey Macken £2.1 million (€2.52 million). It is one of the biggest convictions ever by a UK employment tribunal for gender discrimination in equal pay. The decision sent the important message that companies should resolve discrimination complaints internally rather than paying steep legal fees. The Council of Europe can help member states to ensure access to effective remedies for victims of pay discrimination, to promote pay transparency with relevant statistics, including pay comparisons, and to adopt comprehensive strategies to promote gender equality in employment. Equal and non-discriminatory access to jobs and careers would bring a more gender-balanced pool of expertise. Anyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to advance. I salute economies that include fair pay for women, because when women succeed, we all succeed.