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Point of view: A "man's world" and "women's work": time to move on

Apr 12, 2017
Equal opportunities are still a women’s topic . Yet there are sufficient reasons to treat it as an issue for society as a whole. Everyone benefits – especially in the Alps, believes Barbara Wülser, deputy director of CIPRA International.
Image caption:
Barbara Wülser, deputy director of CIPRA International © Martin Walser

On 18 and 19 April 2017 the Austrian presidency of the Alpine Convention is inviting participants to the women's conference in Alpbach: one important topic will be the pivotal role that women play in the development of mountain areas worldwide. Women nowadays do not simply wish to be limited to this role, however, and are demanding equal opportunities in training, employment and family work. There will likely be a majority of women represented on the stage and in the audience at Alpbach. Yet equal opportunities should also be a matter for men since both women and men will benefit from shared responsibilities and opportunities.

The economic benefits of more women participating in economic life would be enormous. A study by the International Monetary Fund shows that over 1.6 billion women worldwide could be better integrated into the job market. In western industrial nations, as in the Alpine countries, the greatest hurdles are formed by the lack of childcare possibilities. Women in these countries are at least as well qualified as men; but careers are still far too much of a rarity in part-time employment. And the main burden of economic strength still lies on the shoulders of men. Although gender equality is legally enshrined in Alpine countries, impressions and role images are still often more important than talent or inclination.

Equal opportunities are not the same as assimilation, but rather permit the use of potentials and free spaces. Division of labour means managing everyday life according to one's own needs and possibilities, gaining diverse experiences, being with one's family and, at the same time, participating in professional and social life. Men can cook or play with the children just as well as women. Women can chair meetings or give speeches just as well as men. A society where men and women participate equally in family and working life is more flexible and more resilient, meaning it can react better to change. Especially in the Alps, where economically underdeveloped regions coexist alongside prosperous areas, society is dependent on such resilience. Equal opportunities will mean that the Alps remain an attractive location for people of every sex and age.


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