International Women's Day: what are we fighting for?

Across the world, International Women's Day is marked with demonstrations for more equality and fundamental debates about how the sexes should treat each other. Europe's press reflects on discrimination in the workplace, authorities turning a blind eye to violence, the future of feminism and real or false expectations.

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El País (ES) /

Feminism remains powerful

El País observes various developments:

“The machismo perceived by the majority of society is denied by the majority of male Vox voters. ... This is especially true for the younger generations, which is worrying. While young women have been socialised with the MeToo messages of empowerment, young men are more sceptical about feminism. ... However, in the face of the rise of ultra-conservative forces, we have also seen the right to abortion being included in the French constitution thanks to powerful social mobilisation. ... This confirms the power of a movement that has always been at the centre of major social changes. Feminism itself should not lose sight of this.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Insufficient change in the boardrooms

Emancipation must continue at the executive level, stresses Handelsblatt:

“We have the women's quota to thank for the fact that we now have around 30 percent women in the boardrooms of DAX companies. But why is only one in 40 DAX CEOs female? And why is the statutory quota for women on the management and supervisory boards of listed companies with co-determination on a parity basis only 30 percent and not 50 percent? That would reflect the true majority situation in society. The first feminists also pushed through the right to vote for all women, not just for one in three or only for women with a higher level of education.”

Večer (SI) /

Women don't handle power any differently

The hope that the world would become a fairer place with more women in top positions has been disappointed, Večer argues:

“Such expectations have nothing to do with real life. ... The fact that Ursula von der Leyen leads the EU does not mean that the EU has become better, more social or is pursuing a policy of peace. Right now it is leading to more rearmament. ... And the fact that the European Central Bank is headed by a woman does not make capital more social either. ... Women deal with social power in the same antisocial, irresponsible and anti-peaceful way as men in comparable positions. Which is proof that the social behaviour of individuals does not depend on their genitals.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Authorities still looking the other way

In the past five years there have been only 200 reports of sexual harassment of women in Romania, journalist Costi Rogozanu discovered from the Romanian Ministry of the Interior. He writes in Libertatea:

“I also asked how many cases of sexual harassment came to court in the decade 2007-2017. Nine! And only two resulted in a conviction. What does this mean? That we have women who cast themselves as victims? That they're making things up? That they don't know how to press charges? Obviously not. Basically, the Romanian police keep trying to send a clear message to women: we don't solve sexual harassment cases. Stop complaining, we don't feel like leaving the office for such things.”

Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Make this day superfluous

Mélanie Geelkens, editorialist at Le Vif, is fed up with International Women's Day:

“I'm sick and tired of reading the same appalling statistics [for Belgium] over and over again: 25 femicides in 2023, 22,998 acts of violence in couples in 2022 (63 per day), 20 percent of women raped at some point in their life, 53 percent of rape cases dropped, 5 percent pay gap. ... I'm sick of seeing anecdotal, sometimes even detrimental advances (menstrual leave!) being presented as great feminist victories. I'm fed up with the fact that feminism has become a dirty word. ... And with the fact that 8 March still exists. That it is still necessary.”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR Online) (EE) /

Still a long way to go

ERR Online examines the challenges ahead for Estonia, whose almost 18-percent gender pay gap is the biggest in the EU:

“Employers would do well to work towards transparent and non-discriminatory pay and HR policies. The public sector can create a favourable legal environment and support employers with the right tools. ... However the gender pay gap is not a matter of convictions, but of data. The labour market research institute Figure Baltic Advisory has underscored an interesting fact: the more a company believes that there is no gender pay gap, the more likely it is that the opposite will be the case.”