Gender inequality harms men and women, says expertp

Gender inequality harms men and women, says expert

Virginija Langbakk, director of the Vilnius-based European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), says women are not the only ones who suffer as a result of gender inequality. Men lose out, too, when, due to stereotypes, they are expected to work longer hours and are given less personal and family time.

“The unfair division of unpaid time is a loss for men," says Langbakk. "If they were more involved in household activities and spent more time with family, they would have better health and a better relationship with the family.”

Langbakk spoke at an EHU Public Conversation on "Gender Equality in Europe: How Close Are We?" and gave a preview of her Institute's newly-developed EU-wide Gender Equality Index. Langbakk discussed gender gaps in the EU through the lenses of work, money, power, knowledge, time, and health.

“The smallest gap [between women and men] is in the domain of health, for example, access to medical facilities. Most people believe they have equal access [to these services],” said Langbakk. “What is worrying are the dimensions of time and power.”

According to Langbakk, EU member-states generally have relatively few women in positions of power. Moreover, women spend much more time performing unpaid duties than men.

“Unpaid time is who does the work at home. If it's not your mother, it's you, not your brother or father,” said Langbakk, addressing the mostly female audience.

EHU Vice-Rector Darius Udrys, who moderated the discussion, noted the lack of males in the audience and that it seems difficult to engage men on issues of gender equality.

Langbakk cited another study showing that when men in positions of power have daughters, they become more sensitive to issues of gender equality, understand gender issues better, and become advocates for change. Beyond that, more deliberate efforts to engage men on issues of gender equality are clearly needed, with an emphasis on the fact that gender equality is not only about women and that inequality harms everyone.

Langbakk suggested that the best way to promote gender equality is through education, media attention, and by demonstrating leadership in a way that challenges stereotypes, like the example of a man in a position of power who excuses himself from an important meeting that is running overtime because he has to pick up his children from school.

EIGE will officially present the Gender Equality Index on June 13 in Brussels. Data used for the Index will be made available to researchers and the public via an online database.

EHU Public Conversations represent EHU’s vision of the university as a forum for discussion of ideas and their application that involves and benefits the public. EHU Public Conversations are generously sponsored by Novotel Vilnius Centre.

Co-financed by:European Commission