Complaints to the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) included allegations of dismissal from work due to pregnancy.
The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) has highlighted the need for more women in decision-making positions, in its annual report on its activities for 2011.
Although active women in the labour market has jumped from 33.5% in 2004 to 41.1% in 2011, discrimination against women in the workplace remains high, NCPE executive director Romina Bartolo said.
"We continue to receive complaints on a regular basis. Some of these complaints include alleged discriminatory applications forms for jobs; allegations of sexual harassment on the workplace; and allegations of dismissal from work over pregnancy," Bartolo said.
The NCPE also recieved complaints of racial discrimination in the supply and access to housing, and entry to nightclubs.
Addressing the conference was also Serap Altinisik, a member of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), who said women were occupying less than 20% of the world’s parliamentary seats.
"Globally, 40-50% of party members are women, but only 10% hold leadership positions," she said, adding that the proportion of women ministers averaged 16%. Moreover, the proportion of women heads of state and government stood at less than 5% in 2011.
In the European Union, less than 35% of MEPs and 22% in average of national parliamentarians are women. On the other hand, the difference of women’s representation in national parliaments between the EU member states and the rest of the world is decreasing.
In Malta, the highest female representation was registered in 1951, when four women out of 40 MPs (10%) were elected in parliament. Today, there are only six women out of 69 MPs (8.7%).
"Even if women now have some important posts, women are still underrepresented in political and economic decision-making in all European countries," Altinisik said.
Laying down the condition for improving the situation, she said political parties should be committed in having equal representation of women and men. She said, that while voluntary quotas by political parties can work, without legal obligation they may be neglected.
"The equal representation of women and men in decision-making is a question that has an impact on all of us," Altinisik said. "It is a question of democracy in all organisations and institutions."
According to a study published by the EU’s directorate-general for internal policies, quota regulations increase the recruitment of women.
Interviews with female German politicians demonstrated that the candidate selection and nomination processes were strongly influenced by quota rules. The study said that, because of the quota rule, parties looked for women and, in the parties with quota rules, female party members often received encouragement to start a political career.
The study concluded that "women seem to develop political aspirations more often in such parties, rather than in non-quota parties".
As part of the ’Unlocking the Female Potential’ campaign, NCPE also awarded four organisations with the Equality Mark certification. These included Grand Hotel Excelsior, Nectar Group of Companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Sign Services.
Addressing the conference, Justice Minister Chris Said that government believed in every human being having an equal opportunity to fulfil their potential, and said more effective legislation was needed.
"Diversity is increasing and we acknowledge the need to empower individuals who are discriminated against because of their gender, race or beliefs," Said said.
Recent amendments to increase the gravity of crimes aggravated by racial discrimination have been tabled in parliament, while other legal amendments will widen the NCPE’s remit to include racism, which so far was not part of its portfolio. The NCPE will eventually be entrusted with safeguarding and promoting equal treatment on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and religious belief.
The minister said that he hoped that the amendments would be approved before parliament’s summer recess. "There is no controversy on the amendments so we hope to find a slot before we stop for the summer recess. Moreover, we can use the summer period to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure in place," Said said.
Said also said increasing numbers of working women was not enough, in comments on female participation in the labour market: "We need more women to break the glass ceiling and to eliminate the barriers that stop them from climbing the career ladder."
Said said government was committed to offer further flexible work arrangements and family-friendly measures for more workers. Since January 2012, maternity leave had been extended to 16 weeks, and will increase to 18 weeks as of 2013.
Said also referred to the 25% tax rate for parents. "Parents opting for this computation are paying up to €840 less income tax annually. Government is also committed to invest in more fiscal incentives such as the tax holiday afforded to mothers who return to employment," Said said.