European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

Break the glass wall on Int'l Women's Day 2016!


International Women’s Day against gender bias in the workplace

Brussels, 8 march 2016 - On International Women’s Day the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), EFFAT and fellow ETUFs call on men and women to break the glass walls that segregate the sexes into separate occupations and to promote gender equality in the workplace.

Women continue to be held back not only by glass ceilings that stop them climbing the career ladder, but also by glass walls that segregate women into gender-biased jobs and alienate them from other posts.

The European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) is particularly concerned by this unsatisfactory assessment, as tourism and the food and drink manufacturing and processing industry employ more women than other sectors.

  • In the food sector alone women represent approximately 43 per cent of all employees. Women are nonetheless under-represented in managerial and vocational roles.
  • Women outnumber men in the 5Cs, namely caring, cashiering, cleaning, catering and clerical.
  • The share of female employment in the tourist accommodation sector is 60%.

The figures are equally striking in many other sectors, where women represent a mere:

  • 4% of drivers, building workers and mechanics;
  • 18% of engineering and computing professionals;
  • 80% of teaching and healthcare professionals;
  • 4% of CEOs of listed companies and only some 22% of supervisory boards’ members.

In the five-year period between 2005 and 2010, gender segregation in the workplace saw un unexpected increase across Europe.

“We must break the glass walls. Women are overrepresented in occupations that offer lower wages than jobs predominantly carried out by men, which mainly explains the average 16% gender pay gap across Europe. More should be done to enable women to enter, stay and progress in occupations that are male-dominated. At the same time wages and conditions need to be improved in female dominated sectors” said Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary.

“No country in Europe is free from gender segregation at work – there are glass ceilings and walls that separate us. This is bad for women and men. Talent is being wasted, literally on an industrial scale. Ending gender segregation at work should be of one the priorities of a EU Strategy on gender equality that still has not materialised, despite the unions’ calls” said Montserrat Mir, ETUC Confederal Secretary.

The ETUC is currently collecting good practices by trade unions, including through collective bargaining.

On International Women’s Day, EFFAT General Secretary Harald Wiedenhofer said: “Statistics on gender inequality are clear and certainly do not correspond to our idea of labour market. EFFAT seizes today’s commemorations as an opportunity to call on EU policy-makers and employers to scale up actions so that women and men can develop their potential and be included in the job market on an equal standing.

EFFAT members continue to implement the EFFAT Gender Equality Plan, which sets out goals to boost women’s participation in decision-making bodies, implement gender mainstreaming, and reduce the pay gap between men and women, as well as the EFFAT Recommendations on Equal Pay for Women and Men.

Furthermore, EFFAT pursues the improvement of working conditions for domestic workers, comprising almost exclusively women,  by calling upon EU Member States to ratify and implement ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and by coordinating EFFAT members’ efforts to organise and defend the interests of this category.  

Background notes

EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.