Changing roles of men and women in workplaces and families of Europe

It is equally difficult to discuss traditional family forms and workplace roles, simply because of the amount of debate about what these actually are. However, one is sure that the popular stereotype of the breadwinning father and the mother who stays at home to look after house and home is undoubtedly still present in modern day Europe.

Take Britain for example.

Women in Britain today make up 51% of the population and 45% of the workforce. However, despite being more active in the workforce, women still continue to have the main responsibility for childcare and housework in most households. Although there is evidence that there is now greater equality in homes and that more men are taking some responsibility for raising the family, many people believe that more can definitely be done to balance the household responsibilities between men and women.

However, despite such fixed roles of men and women in the workplaces and families of Europe, there is still progress going on to achieve greater equality between the both genders.
For progress made in the workplaces of Europe, we can refer to the timeline below:

1500
Traditional roles such as preparing and serving food, weaving clothes, educating children

1600-1640
Women worked as farming servants in farming tobacco.

1800
Women had home schooling, they learned to read and write at home
Women in large numbers began working outside of the home in textile mills and clothing shops

1847
Women are over-worked workers in factories. Women and their children worked 12 hour shifts

1870
1/5 of resident college/university students were women

1890
Higher education become more broad by rise of women’s colleges and university

1900
Women obtained 19% of all undergraduate college degrees and 1/3 of the school population at colleges and universities were women

1914
There is an introduction of canary girls. Canary girls worked in munitions factories, offices and large hangars used to build aircrafts. They are allowed in the engineering fields.

1915
They get money from their jobs. They are allowed to preparing hampers for soldier and worked as nurses at the front line.

1945
They are allowed to work on building ships, vehicles, aircrafts and weapons

It is evident that there are more women entering the male dominated world, taking up jobs such as pilot and engineering. Also, in 2009, women represented 20.9% of the parliament in Europe and 18.4% world average. Policies have also been implemented in Britain, as women are given the right to equal pay and prohibiting employers from discriminating against women because of their sex. Indeed, there are progressions in women rights in workplace in Europe that we can celebrate as women are gaining more and more respect from the males. However, despite these efforts, discrimination is still present in modern day Europe.

One of the basic rights women have is not to be discriminated against in the workforce and in the workplace. Unfortunately, however, reality does not always comply with the law and even in Europe; women continue to be discriminated against in manifold ways. It is the various restrictions on women’s access to and participation in the workforce, which includes the wage gap and glass ceiling, which eventually shaped the fixed roles of men and women in Europe’s workplace.

Take Denmark for example.

Denmark currently has one of Europe’s highest female employment rates, and Danish women are among those countries with the highest educational qualifications in Europe. With a female employment rate of 71.9% for those aged 15–64 years, Denmark exceeds by far the EU’s female employment target of 60% by 2010. However, this relative success is not reflected in the number of female managers and representatives on company boards. According to the Eurostat news release, the proportion of female managers is also relatively low in Denmark at 23% compared with the EU25 average of 32.1%. Also, as compared to other European countries, it is confirmed that Denmark lags behind in relation to female representation on company boards. In 2005, a total of 7.2% of women in Denmark were represented on corporate boards, compared to 24.2% in Norway and 15.1% in Sweden.

The Danish gender pay gap is also relatively high, despite the country’s highly qualified female workforce. The March 2006 Eurostat news release also reveals that, in 2004, Denmark recorded a gender pay gap of 17 percentage points, which was higher than the EU25 average of 15 percentage points and than that of most southern and eastern European Member States, where the gender pay gap was often less than 10 percentage points.

Now, let us take a look at the changes made in the roles played by men and women in families of Europe.

In a recent survey done on British men, the great majority of them say that they do not want to continue in full-time work once they have had children. This is because they prefer to spend more time with their children and staying in with their pregnant partner, with only 17% preferring to go out with their friends. Results have been encouraging, with just 34% of men wanting to continue in full-time work once they had had children, 33% preferring to go part time, and another third being prepared to become stay-at-home fathers. This shows that British men want to be fathers just as much as women want to be mothers, and are making an effort to be more active in parenting, pouring their life and soul into fatherhood.

Similarly, efforts have been made in the government sector to ensure continuity in the change of mindsets of European men, to take on a more active role in parenting. Just under a new financial scheme for parents in Germany which came into effect on January , 2007, the federal government pays mothers or fathers two-thirds of their last net paycheck -- up to €1,800 ($2,360) -- for up to 12 months as long as they stay at home to take care of a new baby. And if the other parent takes an additional two months off to care for the child, the government heaps two more months of pay on top. There are also plans to create new daycare facilities and financing scheme for parents, so as to adapt its family policies to the exigencies of the typical modern family.

This effort is not only apparent in Germany, as other EU countries are also making headway in modernizing the role of men in the family. In Iceland, for example, until 2000, men generally did not stay home to care for children, but a new law now makes it possible for them to do so. Around 90 percent of fathers in Iceland take advantage of the opportunity, and take an average of 97 days off from work to stay at home with a new child.

In conclusion, the roles of men and women in both workplaces and families are changing, slowly but surely. As women continue to be more recognized in working industries, there are also given more job opportunities and are allowed in the male dominated industries. Men are also breaking out of the traditional ‘breadwinner’ stereotype and are taking a more active role in parenting, though more can still be done in terms of household chores. Efforts of both men and women to break out of traditional roles are being made, reflecting their determination to achieve further equality between the genders. All these are slow progressions being made, but progression is definitely seen.

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