Women are an overshadowed, at-risk majority 's study

  • 2007-03-14
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - Women make up a majority of Lithuania's population and their life expectancy is more than 10 years longer than men's, but they still lag far behind men when it comes to decision making and earning power, according to a new study.

The report, released by the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsman on the occasion of International Women's Day, showed that women are heavily underrepresented in Lithuania's public life and continue to be much more socially vulnerable than men.
"These figures make us rethink the meaning of Inter-national Women's Day," Ausrine Burneikiene, head of Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsman, told The Baltic Times.

"Flowers once a year is a not a sufficient appreciation of the modern woman. The data we have demonstrates that women are not placed well enough in our society," she added.
That data showed that despite their majority status 's in 2006 there were 1,145 women in Lithuania per 1,000 men 's women still hold relatively few positions of political power in the country.

For example they make up less than one fourth of Lithuania's legislators (33 out of 141), an equally small portion of members of government (three out of 13), and just 20 percent of municipal council members, the report pointed out.
The survey also showed significant socio-economic disparities among men and women in Lithuania. Overall the average woman's monthly wage is only 82 percent of men's, and the figure for women in the public sector is even worse, 78 percent.

Just as alarming are the figures for those at the lowest end of the income ladder. A full 62 percent of all unemployed people in Lithuania are women, and the figure has been growing in recent years. Additionally, poverty among women is higher than among men. Some 19.3 percent of women live below the poverty line, which is 2.4 percent above the national average.
Margarita Jankauskaite from the Center of Equality Advancement, which cooperated with the Office of Equal Opportunities to produce the study, stressed that the statistics show that the situation for women is in fact deteriorating, despite the general progress in society.

Figures are particularly disappointing when it comes to the nation's highest political positions: the speaker of the parliament and his 6 deputies are all men, only one of 14 parliamentary committees is chaired by a woman, and only three out of 17 deputy chairpersons of parliamentary committees are women.
The view is much the same in the government, where 4 out of 13 deputy ministers are women, and they hold two out of nine state secretaries' posts.

The picture is even more grim at the local governmental level, where women hold mayoral positions in only five percent of Lithuania's 60 municipal councils.
The situation is not much better in other public institutions, where having a woman heading an office is decidedly more the exception than the rule. The Ministry of Culture has the best record with 33 women leading the 99 various councils and commissions subordinate to the ministry. None of the 10 such institutions in the Ministry of Transport is chaired by a woman.
And women cannot even count on gender solidarity, if the Agriculture Ministry and Ministry for Social Protection and Labor are anything to go by. Despite the fact that both ministries are run by women, not one of the five institutions under former or the six in the latter has a woman as its leader.

Despite the notable exception of Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania's representative in the European Commission, the study also showed that women are not only underrepresented in institutions inside Lithuania, but are rarely called upon to represent the country abroad. Only 6 out of Lithuania's 31 ambassadors are women.