Monitoring progress in gender equality is key to support better informed policy-making and ensure its effectiveness and accountability. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) monitors the distribution of power in the European Union (EU) through regular collection of data on women and men in key decision-making positions.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented an unprecedented global threat requiring prompt and considered responses to minimise the public health risks and mitigate the social and economic impact on all citizens. In 2021, EIGE began collecting data on the gender balance amongst the key decision-makers involved in coordinating the COVID-19 response, and more generally in relation to public health, at EU level and in the Member States. Access the data here.
- The European Commission Coronavirus Response Team, established in March 2020, coordinates the COVID-19 response at EU level. There are four women (66.7%) and two men (33.3%) in the 6-member team presided by the Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen (April 2022). The team has not changed since its establishment.
- The two Commission departments dealing with COVID-19/health - DG SANTE (public health) and DG HERA (specifically setup to manage health emergencies and responses) - are led by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and her 6-member cabinet, which includes 4 women (66.7%) and two men (33.3%). However, women account for only just over a quarter of all directors across the two DGs (27.3%) (April 2022).
- Two European agencies have an important role in management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) works with national partners to strengthen the surveillance and prevention of infectious diseases, while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is involved in the approval of medication and vaccines. Currently, both organisations have a woman as the executive head and a woman chairing their governing bodies. Women account for 51.6% of the combined members of the two management boards (33 of 64 in July 2022), a substantial increase from 42.4% in 2021.
- Women accounted for 20.7% of senior ministers1 and 35.5% of junior ministers2 (or 28.3% overall) with responsibility for COVID-19/health across the 27 EU Member States in November 2021. Compared to 2020, this represents a decrease for junior ministers (from 42.9%) but no change for senior ministers.
- In 2021, the senior civil servants in ministries dealing with health were well gender balanced (i.e. included at least 40% of each gender) with women holding 49.0% and 53.3% respectively of level 1 and level 2 positions within the administrative hierarchy (52.6% overall). Compared to 2020, the representation of women increased at both levels (up from 44.8% for level 1 and from 52.0% for level 2).
- Across the parliamentary committees with responsibility for COVID-19/health in 27 EU Member States, women accounted for 44.7% of leaders and 45.6% of their combined members (September 2021). At the national level, women outnumbered (i.e. accounted for >60%) men in Sweden (70.6%), Finland (70.6%), and Belgium (64.7%) but, at the other end of the spectrum, held less than 1 in 4 (or <25%) committee seats in Ireland, Hungary, Greece, and Cyprus and there were no women in the 4-member committee in Malta.
- Most EU Member States established or appointed one or more new or existing bodies to monitor the COVID-19 situation and provide expert advice to support the government in managing the public health aspects of the pandemic and the vaccination strategy. The latest data from July 2022, which cover 20 Member States, show that these scientific advisory committees have a good gender balance amongst both the committee presidents (43.8% women and 56.2% men) and the committee members (43.3% women and 56.7% men) and that the proportion of women members increased slightly compared to 2021 (41.8%) (Figure 1). Advisory bodies were gender balanced in Ireland, Spain, Czechia, Cyprus, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, and Greece. Women outnumber men in Estonia (77.3%), Slovenia (70.0%), Bulgaria (65.7%), and Sweden (62.5%) but account for less than one in four members (i.e. <25%) in Poland (23.1%) and Italy (18.2%).
Figure: Share of women members of scientific advisory bodies/committees, EU Member States, 2020-2022
Source: EIGE, Gender Statistics Database. Notes: Data sorted by share of women members in 2022. “:” data not available (DK, CY, LT (2020), and LV (2020-2021)). No data for any year for HR, HU, MT, PT, RO, SK, and FI (countries not included in the chart).
1 Senior ministers: members of the government in ministries dealing with COVID-19/health who have a seat on the cabinet or council of ministers.
2 Junior ministers: members of the government in ministries dealing with COVID-19/health who do not have a seat on the cabinet.