Gender equality: An imperative for societal progress | Steve Ellul

As we stand on the precipice of a new era, the importance of promoting gender equality cannot be overstated. It's a journey fraught with complexities and challenges, yet it holds the promise of a brighter and more inclusive future for all.

In today's world, promoting gender equality is essential for societal advancement and progress. While Malta has made significant progress in this regard, there are still challenges that require continued action and commitment.

Gender equality is not only about fairness but is also a crucial driver of prosperity and innovation. Studies show that diverse teams that include gender representation outperform their counterparts. Therefore, by harnessing the talents and perspectives of all individuals, societies can unlock untold potential, fostering creativity and resilience in the face of challenges.

Although women make up a significant portion of Malta's workforce and contribute to various sectors of the economy, they still face pay disparities, lack of representation in leadership positions, and limited access to opportunities. These disparities hinder economic empowerment and perpetuate gender inequalities across the country. Therefore, closing the gender pay gap is imperative as it promotes equality, economic growth, and overall well-being and is a matter of social justice and economic fairness.

To promote the uptake of employment for those furthest away from the labour market, the Maltese Government has implemented various Active Labour Market Policies since 2013. Currently, the Government is striving for a human-centric approach to work and the future of work to ensure that individuals, irrespective of gender, are supported and provided with equal opportunities. This includes various schemes such as the Free Childcare Scheme, Youth Guarantee, Traineeship Scheme, Work Exposure Scheme, Access to Employment Scheme, Bridging the Gap Scheme, and the VASTE Programme. These programs, together with the National Employment Policy 2021-2030, aim to ensure sustainable economic growth by providing a level playing field for all and ensuring tomorrow's economic success in a world of work characterized by digital and green transitions.

Gender stereotypes are preconceived social and cultural patterns or ideas that assign characteristics and roles to women and men based on their sex. Given their pervasiveness and operation throughout time, a life-cycle approach is necessary to address the socialisation of men and boys in a wide range of social contexts, such as home, education, workplace, the wider economy, public space, social media and networks, as well as personal relationships.

Political representation is another key area that needs attention. Despite an increase in the number of women in politics, including in the Maltese Parliament, there remains a significant gender gap. Addressing this gap requires not only encouraging more women to enter politics but also creating an environment that supports their participation in leadership positions. To achieve this, it's crucial to promote gender-sensitive attitudes and challenge gender stereotypes through education and awareness programs.

Gender-based violence remains a pressing issue across Europe, including Malta, despite legislative measures and support services. Challenges persist in addressing the root causes of violence against women and providing comprehensive support to survivors. Therefore, it's necessary to implement and enforce policies that promote gender equality and protect women's rights. This includes providing support services for survivors of gender-based violence, such as shelters, counselling, and legal assistance.

A multifaceted approach is necessary to address these challenges. It's crucial to invest in education and awareness programs that challenge gender stereotypes and promote gender-sensitive attitudes. Promoting women's participation and leadership in all sectors of society, including politics, business, and civil society, is crucial. Additionally, collaborating with European partners to share best practices and coordinate efforts to advance gender equality across the continent is vital.

As we stand on the precipice of a new era, the importance of promoting gender equality cannot be overstated. It's a journey fraught with complexities and challenges, yet it holds the promise of a brighter and more inclusive future for all. Let's seize this moment to reaffirm our commitment to equality, emboldened by the belief that together, we can create a world where every individual has the opportunity to thrive, irrespective of gender.