News on Women’s Health and Work
| March 2015
Sharing knowledge and experiences to improve the
working conditions of women and strengthen equality was the main objective of
the International conference ‘Women's health and work'
that the ETUI (European
Trade Union Institute) organised on March 4-6, 2015 at the International Trade
Union House in Brussels.
The conference touched on 6 areas of broad interest, organised
in workshops: health inequalities and division of labour; women workers exposed
to chemicals, work organisation and the interaction with private life, the
hardships of work, the design and use of protective clothing, personal
protective equipment, tools and machinery for women’s work, and ageing and the
long term effects of work. The latter workshop was organised by EU-OSHA
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
COFACE’s director, Agnes Uhereczky presented the
European Reconciliation Package at the workshop: Gender and Age – impact on working
life. A number of very interesting presentations were made during this session,
among which Agnes Parent-Thirion presented Eurofound’s work on working
conditions, and the PREVENT network representative talked about working with
chronic illnesses, and how can organisations adjust to accommodate workers with
such life-limiting conditions.
It was a great opportunity to present our new publication at this
very important event, which took us to the intersection of age and gender
discrimination at work. The audience participated actively in the lively
discussion, and many issues came to the surface, ranging from flexible working
possibilities, training and awareness raising, career development, and
Women’s engagement with employed work has immediate visibility since it takes place in the public sphere. Men’s involvement in family work, by contrast, does not tie into the same social value-claiming process. Men’s performance of household and family tasks is arguably much more "revolutionary” in terms of changing established norms and values than women’s involvement in employed work.
Taking family time into account in the organisation of working time
increasingly seems to be the prerequisite for successful implementation of the gender equality principle
. For that to happen, however, the concept of reconciling work and family life needs to be rethought in universal terms, i.e., in terms that embrace both men’s and women’s wants and needs, not just those of women, as has too often been the case so far. These universal terms can only come about from balancing men’s and women’s needs and wants in terms of time for family life.
Where families specifically are concerned, men must realise that the future of equality in the family depends first and foremost on them, their commitment and ability to negotiate and socially impose the legitimacy of their presence in the home to look after and take care of their children or other dependent family members.
Lone-parent fathers who have to contend with this situation could help spearhead change in this respect.
Engineering real equality between men’s and women’s rights cannot stop short at the workplace and public sphere, however essential that may be. It must also extend to the private sphere where the family holds pride of place, failing which the existing gender inequalities will be perpetuated indefinitely.
Published on 09 Nov 2011
Updated on 09 Mar 2015