Council for Equal Opportunities calls for more women in public posts

Foto: Europäische Kommission

Women represent 51 percent of the Czech population. However, that fact is not reflected in the government or parliament. Women are underrepresented in influential posts in politics, in public administration and in the private sector. 17 percent of MPs in the lower house are women, in the Senate the figure is 12 percent. In the Czech Republic, women receive about 74 percent of the salaries paid to men on average. Women managers and professionals receive only 55 percent of the salaries their male colleagues get.

Photo: European Cimmission
Miroslav Fuchs is deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister for European Integration and also a member of the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.

"First of all, I would say that the situation in the Czech Republic is not much different from the situation in other EU or acceding countries to the European Union. We have similar problems concerning segregation in the labour market. There are sectors or industries where women are mostly employed. Unfortunately, those industries are less paid than the others. This segregation on the labour market is connected with the different level of remuneration between men and women. The overall difference between the wages of men and women is 25 percent less for women than for men. But this is a reflection of the position of women in employment and segregation on the labour market. Whether the situation has changed over the past few years is difficult to say. A few years is a short time for a substantial change in this area. Other countries in Europe have been fighting against various forms of discrimination for decades and they are still fighting. So I think, really, we are at the beginning of this long process of changes."

Are there so few women in top-level politics and management because they are not ambitious enough or do those who try hit what has been termed the "glass ceiling"? Miroslav Fuchs from the Labour Ministry.

"The majority of our women are still combining family responsibilities and work, so it is difficult for them to really share this equally. And then because of this they spend more time in the family, taking care of children rather than a job. The other side of this coin is the attitude and position of employers. I would say that in general - I don't want to say there are no exceptions - but in general, the managers have stereotyped thinking on this and they usually accept to the higher, top-level position men rather than women. But I also hope that in this sense we will experience a change in the near future because in countries like Sweden or Germany - when the foreign management from these countries comes to the Czech Republic with foreign investors, I think that they will try to introduce this so-called gender mainstreaming in the enterprise or industry policy because in those countries there are examples which prove that if women are in the top-level management position, the productivity and profit of the company is higher than if it is only male representation in the management."

Waiting for foreign employers to introduce gender mainstreaming principles is not enough. The government's advisory body, the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, is trying to get more women involved in decision making in politics. That's why it is proposing that political parties should be obliged by law to put forward an equal number of men and women on their list of candidates. Women's rights activist Michaela Marksova-Tominova represents the not-for-profit sector on the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. Herself a member of a political party, the Social Democrats, Ms Marksova-Tominova says the same proportion of men and women on lists of candidates is a useful tool which could get more women into both top-level and communal politics.

"I have seen results from countries which applied quotas on their candidates' lists and I think this is the only way to increase the number of women in politics in a reasonable period of time. I think that this measure can be just a temporary measure but as I know the situation, the real situation in our political parties, I think that it is inevitable."

The government has been recommended to include the proportion principle in the election law. However, Michaela Marksova-Tominova says she thinks the recommendation has only a limited chance of success.

"Well, in my opinion it maybe has a chance to pass in the government but I think it has no chances in parliament. But I think it was a very important decision that the governmental council did this because at least politicians on a high level, like members of parliament and members of the government, will have to discuss this issue finally, and seriously. So I think this is a very important thing as well."

Another issue which the Governmental Council is concerned with is gender-sensitive budgeting - making sure that local, regional, even national budgets respect gender equality. Do we know what percentages of public budgets benefit men and women?

"Well, actually we don't know yet because the recommendation of the governmental council or the decision of the government concerning gender budgeting was only that the minister of finance should prepare a methodological booklet on how to do gender budgeting or how to do the analysis of budgets from a gender point of view. So we are at the very beginning."

Although the Czech Republic is only starting to implement gender-sensitive budgeting, Miroslav Fuchs, the Labour Ministry's representative on the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities, says this country is not far behind the European Union.

"I don't think we have lost a lot of time compared to other EU countries because in the majority of other countries in Europe, only recently, two, three, four years ago they started to apply this method and methodology. In the Czech Republic we asked the government and the government approved the proposal from the governmental council to prepare this kind of methodology: how the regional, local and national administration should prepare the public budget in order to avoid unequal distribution of resources. Which means that each budget should be prepared together with an analysis of the previous budget, an analysis of the outcome and expenses of the previous budget, then analyse the income of the current budget and plan accordingly the expenses for the future budget. And I think that could also prove how we are thinking, how the public administration is thinking in respect of equality between men and women."