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HRZone.co.uk exclusive: European Commission to tackle gender pay gap

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A European-wide campaign to close the gender pay gap was launched this week by the European Commission. Verity Gough went to Brussels to find out what this means for HR professionals in the UK.

The buzz around the latest Commission campaign is certainly impressive, and for those who have championed equality and diversity in the workplace, it is positive news. Yet the latest report from the European Commission reveals that while the pay gap between the genders has narrowed considerably in recent years, it remains nonetheless.

According to the 2009 report on equality, women earn on average 17.4% less than men and are still vastly underrepresented in many industries. More concerning still, are the findings that point to poverty in later life for many women as the pay gap reduces their lifetime earning potential and pensions with 21% of women aged 65 and over at risk compared to 16% of men.

Speaking exclusively to HRZone.co.uk, EU equal opportunities commissioner, Vladimir Spidla explained how the campaign hopes to build on the diversity and equality legislation already in operation in many European organisations.

“The campaign aims to strengthen what is already in place and encourage all actors who play a role to do more. Training, which we haven’t spoken about much, is clearly key. If you look at the study in Austria, if you let little girls choose what they would want to do, they would all be hairdressers. But if you support them and show them alternatives, they will also look into other careers, but it is important to do that teaching and explaining from nursery upwards from the very beginning,” he said.

“In society our perceptions are very much influenced by the whole system around us but if we are not shown those other options we won’t take them into account. So anything that increases the variety and understanding of the things that are available is an important aspect.”

As well as a dedicated website, and a large scale press and poster campaign, the Commission will be promoting good practices for countries to adopt, and aims to distribute a campaign toolbox for employers and trade unions at both a European and national level.

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