Pay trends in some Council of Europe member states over a recent 12-year period reflect improvements in the gender pay gap. Eurostat for example reported a drop 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 stood at 19.5% in 2008, but it fell to less than half – at nine per cent – by 2020. But not all news is good.
Over the same period, little or no change has been 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 were women in 2020.
To realise equal pay for equal work, men must take action. Whether as work-mates, employers, decision-makers, law enforcers or advocates for change – as brothers, husbands, fathers and sons – they should raise pay gap awareness. We can start with stopping harmful gender-based stereotypes and sexism that often lead to unequal pay. Sexism is a strategic priority of the current Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy. The Council of Europe promotes equality between women and men as a human right, inscribed into many of our legal instruments. Our Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration last year calling on all member states to ensure equal pay for equal work, but we can only succeed with more support from the men in 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 female banker Stacey Macken 2.1 million-pounds (€2.52 million). It was one of the largest awards ever made by a UK employment tribunal for sex discrimination on equal pay. The ruling sent the important message that corporations should solve claims of discrimination internally rather than pay expensive courtroom costs. The Council of Europe can support member states to ensure access to veritable 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 in a more gender-balanced pool of expertise. Everyone who is willing to work should have the opportunity to get ahead. I welcome economies that include fair pay for women, because when women succeed, we all succeed.