Women and the economic and financial crisis
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Assembly debate on 27 April 2010
(13th Sitting) (see Doc.
12195, report of the Committee on Equal Opportunities
for Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Memecan). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 27 April 2010 (13th Sitting).
See also Recommendation
1 The Parliamentary Assembly notes
that, in a world in which women own 1% of the world’s wealth, have a
10% share of global income, and occupy 14% of leadership positions
in the public and private sector, but account for 70% of the poor,
the current economic and financial crisis is bound to have a different
impact on women and men.
2 Women are first among the groups which suffer disproportionately,
having fewer and less effective forms of protection against economic
hardship. The Assembly regrets that the specific, nefarious impact
of the crisis on women is not reflected in the media reporting on
the crisis. While women have, in the past decades, slowly been making
gains in the world of work – joining the workforce, starting their
own businesses and, on occasion, breaking through the “glass ceiling”
– even these modest gains risk being wiped out by the crisis. The
gender wage gap, the unequal sharing of household and care responsibilities,
the barriers to full-time, well-paid, secure and formal employment
for women, and the lack of women in political, financial and economic
decision making have stubbornly persisted in most countries.
3 The financial crisis which triggered the economic crisis was
literally “man made”. Male decision makers in the financial services
sector are widely blamed for starting the financial crisis, but
politicians, supervisors, regulators and even imprudent households
and businesses share some of the blame. Overconfidence, irresponsible
risk-taking, lack of consideration of all stakeholders, greed and
preference for short-term, individual benefits brought about the
worldwide financial crisis. Very few women were involved in the
decision-making processes which led to the financial crisis, because
very few women held decision-making positions. Therefore, there
is ample reason to question the lack of women’s participation in
the decisions which led to the crisis and to involve them more in
future decision making.
4 Most experts agree that the financial crisis could have been
avoided if there had been more women in decision-making positions.
Studies have shown that women take risks more responsibly, take
a more holistic approach and have a more long-term view in their
financial decision making.
5 To avoid the risk of history repeating itself, and for a healthy
growth of the global economy, it is thus necessary to institute
measures with regard to ensuring a balanced number of men and women
(gender balancing) in the boardrooms and top leadership and decision-making
positions. Diversity in the boardrooms will produce healthier approaches
to problem solving, and promote healthier, long-term, strategic
decision making. Therefore, immediate action should be taken to
ensure gender balancing when reforming the financial institutions
and regulatory and oversight mechanisms.
6 Unfortunately, the state response to the economic and financial
crisis risks further exacerbating the negative impact of the crisis
itself on women, since bail-out programmes for banks and insurance
companies, coupled with investments in particular in infrastructure
projects and support for the automotive industry, where men constitute
the majority of the workforce, overwhelmingly benefit men. This
skewed emphasis on male-dominated sectors may lead to the shelving
of badly needed investments in areas which would mainly benefit women,
for example, in the care and education sector, not to mention projects
aimed at empowering women.
7 A holistic approach is required if sustainable gains are to
be achieved in addressing this crisis and preventing further crises.
The gender perspective should be taken into account in all policies
to increase the number of women in decision-making bodies, to support
work-life balance, to close the gender wage gap and to stimulate
entrepreneurship. Women should have an equal voice with men in all
discussions on rescue and recovery packages, both regarding their
design and in assessing their success. The Assembly recognises that equality
between women and men cannot be a luxury to be addressed only in
times of economic growth: it is a legal and moral obligation, and
makes economic sense.
The Assembly thus recommends that Council of Europe member
8.1 recognise that the
“man-made” financial and economic crisis has had and continues to
have a specific, nefarious impact on women, both in Europe and in
the whole world;
8.2 gender mainstream their rescue and recovery packages,
give women an equal voice in their design and in assessing their
success, and make sure women’s needs are covered in the packages;
8.3 use tools such as sex-disaggregated statistics and gender
budgeting to evaluate the impact of the crisis itself and of such
8.4 take measures to ensure that gender balancing − in particular,
with regard to more gender equality in decision making − is taken
into account when reforming and redesigning the system of financial
institutions and regulatory and oversight mechanisms to avoid future
8.5 make reaching de facto gender equality a priority, from
sharing household and care responsibilities, to closing the gender
wage gap, to ensuring equal access to decision-making positions in
finance, the economy and in politics.
The Assembly recommends that the parliaments of Council of
Europe member states:
9.2 monitor the gender-sensitivity of the governments’ response
to the financial and economic crisis, as well as of the de factoimplementation.