Female leadership in Europe still lags behind male counterparts

Female leadership in europe lags | Female leadership in Europe still lags behind male counterpartsOn April 14, 2014, the European Commission released their 2013 study on progress of gender equality in the workplace. The EU, through the Strategy for Equality 2010-2015, is seeing positive results from this campaign, but European men continue to earn 16% more than women.

Although women in Europe have made significant advances over the last fifty years, they continue to be employed at lower rates than men, with lower salaries. Additionally women are underrepresented in political positions, despite being better educated than their male counterparts. If Europe is going to remain competitive as a region and economically viable in the world, it needs the contributions of its women, more than just from an ethical and equality standpoint. The birthrate in Europe continues to decline, which will shrink the available workforce. Yet the demands for workers will remain the same.

In 2007, a comprehensive study of female participation in the workforce in Europe was conducted by the German office of McKinsey & Company, a global management and consulting firm. (Link to http://www.mckinsey.com/) Comparative data from 25 European countries was analyzed to provide some insight into the continued disparity between men and women in leadership roles in the work place and political environment.

The 2007 McKinsey & Company study examined some of the key reasons that European women continue to earn less and hold fewer leadership roles than men.

Key takeaways from the study:

The study assessed that inequality continues to persist because of:
  • Entrenched beliefs and pervasive “myths” about work and family (cultural norms)
  • Structural barriers (disincentives in tax codes, not enough flexibility)
  • Under representation of women in senior leadership roles and politics
  • Financial gap between men and women
Significant barriers to women working include:
  • Childcare (cost or inaccessibility)
  • Burden of caring for children and elderly (inflexible work schedules)
  • Taxation that de-incentivizes going to work (no tax breaks for childcare)
  • Perceived career disadvantage for mothers


The EU Strategy for Equality 2010-2015 is focused on implementing changes to reduce many of these barriers and increase the rate of employed women to men. As a result, 63% of women are currently in the work force. Funding has been allocated specifically to promoting women in the labor market and to better and more child care facilities, among other initiatives.

One of the more successful elements of the EU Strategy for Equality 2010-2015 is the increase of women serving on company boards. In 2010, women only comprised 11% of company Boards, but in 2014, that has increased to 17.8%.

Despite the successes of the EU strategy, women still face obstacles to working and remain behind their male counterparts. The McKinsey & Company study concludes that it will be necessary for governments, companies, and men and women to work together to remove these barriers.