- Isabella Lenarduzzi

The battle of the sexes is coming to an end

On International Day of the Rights of Woment, 8 March, many journalists asked me if it was still useful to have such a day and if I considered that equality had been achieved in our country…

Our history…

In short, before the 20th Century women had no rights because they were considered inferior to men and unable to make their own decisions. It was only in 1942 that married women could work and only then on the condition that they were not taking jobs away from others!

In 1972, the notion of “equal work, equal pay” came into being and then in 1975 all discrimination towards women finally became illegal.

But it’s the construction of the European Union that added momentum to equality. Since the Treaty of Rome in 1959 and especially since the year 2000 with the implementation on a national level of European Directives that aim to fight against inequality in the workplace and in politics, stereotypes have been challenged and more importance is placed on skills and competence whatever the gender of the person.

The mass influx of women on the labour market has been the main impetus for the economic growth of the last 50 years! Even more so than the spread of information technologies or the growth of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries!

In Europe, 4 million of the 6 millions jobs created in the last ten years have been occupied by women. On average, in 2011, 82 % of young women reach at least upper secondary school education in the EU, compared to 77 % of men. Women also represent 60 % of university graduates in the EU and the gap with men is widening.

Nearly 80% of consumer decisions are made by women.

But the challenges that lie ahead are still huge…

Girls rarely choose numerate jobs and training: less than 7% of girls opt to study computer science and only 12% take engineering (Western Europe).

Whether it is quotas, the threat of quotas or the will to avoid quotas, they have served to increase gender diversity on corporate boards. But Europe has made progress only on Boards, leaving the Executive Committee as unbalanced as before. In Belgium, despite quotas voted in in 2011, only 12% of women have made it on boards of directors in companies listed on the stock exchange and less than 10% on management committees. The figures are very similar for all Europe with only 10% of women in Exec. of the TOP 100 companies and 25% of companies having at least two women.
When women are able to reach high-level positions, it’s often for staff or support roles that are considered less strategic for the organisation (HR, administration, communication, etc.). It is often very difficult for them to get into in line or operational roles and obtain the necessary visibility to move on to director level positions.

In the EU, almost a third of women and 5% of men having a young child are working part-time!

Both for women having one child aged less than 6 and for those having three or more children, where the youngest is aged 6 or less, the highest proportions of those working part-time were observed in the Netherlands (81% for those with one child aged less than 6 and 92% for those with three or more children), Austria (60% and 69%), Germany (56% and 77%) and the United Kingdom (48% and 67%).

On average, women in the EU earn around 16 % less per hour than men. Although the overall gender pay gap has narrowed in the last decade, in some countries the national gender pay gap has actually been widening (Latvia, Portugal).On annual basis this increases to more than 30% less. The pay gap widens with experience and qualifications reaching over 40% at the senior management level in the private sector! This gap increases still further when it comes to employee benefits…


For centuries companies have been run by men for men without domestic concerns. So the culture of all companies and leadership models were profoundly masculine.

  • 80% of unpaid work is done by women.
  • 80% of those who take parental leave are women.

Some considerations:

  • More men have posts of responsibility and the level of responsibility tends to rise with the number of children that they have, which is totally the reverse for women.
  • The higher the woman’s salary the more their husbands devote time to household chores and the family (the power and the confidence to negotiate in the home comes with success, recognition and the salaries earn at work).
  • Women are already well adapted to the world of work. It is now up to companies to change their cultures to enable more “diversity”.
  • In countries where it is possible and well considered to work full time while raising children, women have more children and work more (France, Belgium, Scandinavia compared with Spain, Italy, Germany or Japan).


  • Replace maternity leave with parental leave.
  • Professional and family responsibilities should be totally shared.
  • Women will never gain total independence without men changing and in particular the man with whom they share their life.

Men and Women are finally leaving behind defined models to be who we really are – in other words unique! The patriarchy that separates men from women and women from other women who compete with one another to attract the attention of men in our country is slowly but surely unwinding. We are on the way to a new kind of collective and individual balance of our femininity and masculinity.

The battle of the sexes is coming to an end
But even if it is said that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, we have never been so close!

Isabella Lenarduzzi
JUMP “Empowering Women, Advancing the Economy”