Mutual learning seminar “Gender Segregation in the Labour Market and Education”

On 29 and 30 of September 2015, Denmark hosted the mutual learning seminar “Gender Segregation in the Labour Market and Education”.

Further to the host country Denmark and the associated countries Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, the seminar included representatives and experts from Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden.

The seminar was particularly focused on two key-topics: attracting more male pedagogues to the field of early childhood education and care (ECEC) and more women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

All the participating countries presented their good practices, willing to deepen and share their experiences so as to address the gender segregation issue as effectively as possible.

An overview of the current situation in European labour markets was provided by a recent European Commission study – pointing out that gender segregation is falling overall, but slowly and in some countries it is even increasing. This is not because of neglect but because it is rooted in stereotypes, which are the hardest issue to impact on.

The first to present their practices were Denmark, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, sharing some common themes.

Among them, particularly worth mentioning are gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes lead to gender segregation and segregation reinforces gender stereotypes, as in a vicious cycle. In seeking short-term gains, tactics to address gender segregation can inadvertently call on gender stereotypes, by using a gendered language to attract men into female-dominated sectors and women into male-dominated sectors. This trend should absolutely be avoided.

A second common theme was that addressing gender segregation should go beyond the individual man or woman moving into a sector dominated by the other gender. In order to secure lasting outcomes, changes need to be done at the organisational and societal level.

Finally, all the three countries agreed on the importance of addressing all parts of the chain in challenging gender segregation – from kindergarten to primary, secondary and tertiary education and on to the labour market.

The other participating countries presented their practices both about men in ECEC and women in STEM, showing some generally similar trends: low rates of participation by men as male pedagogues at pre-school level as well as low pay and low status of female-dominated jobs. Moreover, horizontal and vertical segregation is still a huge issue to be addressed.

The projects presented by the host country and the two associated countries were seen as transferable by many participating States. Stimulating and supporting more intense exchanges of experiences is a way to develop new forms of action, required to accelerate a process that has been too slow so far.

Although the many concerns expressed about the future, all the participants agreed on renewing their commitment in learning from each other and emphasized the importance of keeping their collaboration.

For further information, documents and papers on this topic are available on the European Commission website