When there is inequality it might not be sufficient to simply stop discriminating to address it. As endemic discrimination might have lingered for too long, certain ideas gain roots and are difficult to address – i.e, law might say that women and men shall be in the same position to access employment and women still feel that industrial work is not for them. What can be done to change this perception?

44. The best weaver in the country for 1973, Vitana Michailova. Period of State Socialism, 1944-1989. Interactive Museum of Industry, Gabrovo, Bulgaria.


Creating specific quotas in certain industries for women is considered still a highly debatable idea. How to ensure that some industries sectors, in particular, are accessible to women?

45. Qualification of the finished products. Pipes from the biggest plastic producing factory on the Balkan peninsula. Ca. 1970. Period of State Socialism, 1944-1989. Interactive Museum of Industry, Gabrovo, Bulgaria.

Affirmative action, regarding Gender, consists of special temporary measures seeking to address and tackle the impact of past discrimination to advance women’s equality.

The central idea is to ultimately ensure that women can make the same choices and have the same rights and benefits as men, and that equality exists not only in law, but that it is a de facto reality in terms of equal treatment and opportunities.

Affirmative action assumes a significant role in specific areas, vis a vis, the industry sector which has been historically understood as male dominated, even if women assumed from the outset of the Industrial Revolution industry-related tasks and/or had a job in industry.

At the EU level, many of the policies and the legal frameworks now incorporate an affirmative action lens and rationale. However, in terms of further engagement of women in the labour market – and traditionally excluded fields within the industry sector – their representation (infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, etc.) continues to be significantly low.
While in all industries’ sectors and (many) countries there is a clear move from intentionally excluding women, the reality is that women’s participation in those professions is still negatively impacted by socio-cultural beliefs leading to conscious and unconscious biases on what is the women’s role in the industry sector.

Affirmative action needs to be understood as a comprehensive approach to gender equality, and not a set of ad hoc measures.

An example could be a recruitment policy that encourages women’s applications in a specific industry sector through different offers and opportunities (equal pay, health benefits, etc) but that would include work shifts that would clash with childcare needs. While the policy aims to encourage women’s inclusion, it would not be necessarily to reverse discrimination, because the likely result is that many women would not apply to the position, as childcare is still primarily ensured by women.

Affirmative action is also often referred to as positive action, positive discrimination, or reverse discrimination.