Gender pay gap. Why do women still earn less than men?

Bachelor Thesis, 2021

105 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

Index of figures

Index of abbreviations

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem definition and target of the thesis
1.2 Research methodology and structure of the thesis

2 Position of women in the labour market
2.1 Historical overview
2.2 Women’s labour rights
2.2.1 European Union
2.2.2 Council of Europe
2.2.3 United Nations

3 Gender Pay Gap
3.1 Possible reasons for gender pay gap
3.1.1 Education-based occupational segregation
3.1.2 Maternity leave
3.1.3 Glass ceiling
3.1.4 Sticky floor
3.1.5 Unpaid care and domestic work
3.1.6 Negotiation skills
3.1.7 Competitiveness
3.1.8 How work is valued
3.2 Solutions for gender pay gap
3.2.1 Pay transparency
3.2.2 Investing into child care
3.2.3 Equalising parental leave
3.2.4 Gender balanced leadership

4 Survey on gender pay gap
4.1 Methodology
4.2 Research results
4.3 Research limitations

5 Conclusion
5.1 Goal achievement
5.2 Perspectives




This Bachelor Thesis gives a historical overview of women in the labour market, as well as their fight for the prevention of gender-based discrimination concerning salary and access to various jobs. In addition to this, the definition of the gender pay gap is explained, just like the differences between adjusted and unadjusted gender pay gap and how this distinction affects the implementation of possible solutions. The third chapter gives an insight into the reasons for inequality of salaries between women and men, such as educational segregation that later leads to the occupational segregation, negotiating skills of women (or lack of those skills), parental leave, glass ceiling, glass escalator, and sticky floor correlation, lack of affordable childcare, the way work is valued. When it comes to the solutions, chapter three shows that more legal regulations, pay transparency, equalising family leave, increasing female salaries, and companies committing to gender-balanced leadership could help close the gap. Apart from the discourse analysis, the questionnaire was conducted to find out and show diverse people's opinions in the author´s environment (family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, fellow students) on the gender pay gap. For example, what they think the main reasons are, solutions, when could the gender wage gap end, to what extent do they agree or disagree with the given statements. Another goal was to explain gender (in)equality in their workplace and compare survey results with those in the first part of the research. It can be then seen that the research design consists of both qualitative and quantitative analysis, the so-called mixed methods.

Keywords: labour market, female workers, gender pay gap, inequality, glass ceiling, sticky floor, childcare, occupational segregation, legal regulations, pay transparency, family leave, female leaders, mixed methods.

Index of figures

Figure 1: Queen Kubaba – the bartender who became the first-ever female ruler

Figure 2: Naomi Parker Fraley – inspiration for the famous Rosie the Riveter poster

Figure 3: Pay transparency measures in the EU in November 2020

Figure 4: Gender pay gap

Figure 5: Motherhood as a reason for gender pay gap

Figure 6: How far up can women go?

Figure 7: Total work burden in hours per day spent on paid and unpaid work by region and sex: 2001-2018

Figure 8: Pay transparency as a solution to help close the wage gap

Figure 9: The motherhood penalty

Figure 10: Rating of key leadership skills

Figure 11: Rating of key leadership competencies

Figure 12: Education and gender

Figure 13: Employment status and gender

Figure 14: Gender of the CEO

Figure 15: The percentage of female employees in participants´ companies

Figure 16: Paid family leave and gender

Figure 17: Different ways of salary negotiation

Figure 18: Annual gross salary and gender

Figure 19: Annual gross salary and working hours

Figure 20: Annual gross salary and age

Figure 21: Annual gross salary and education

Figure 22: Reasons for gender pay gap

Figure 23: Solutions for gender pay gap

Figure 24: Barriers for gender pay gap

Figure 25: Unadjusted gender pay gap in Germany 2019

Figure 26: End of the gender pay gap in the EU

Figure 27: Equal pay for equal work

Figure 28: Participants´ responses to the statement “I have been underpaid based on my gender.”

Figure 29: Participants´ responses to the statement “I have discussed how much I earn with other people in the company.”

Figure 30: Participants´ responses to the statement “My colleagues/boss value me less based on my gender.”

Figure 31: Participants´ responses to the statement “I believe I am now fairly paid in relation to employees of the opposite sex in the organisation.”

Figure 32: Participants´ responses to the statement “I have negotiated my salary.”

Figure 33: Participants´ responses to the statement “I have managed to raise my salary by negotiating.”

Figure 34: Participants´ responses to the statement “I like competition at work.”

Figure 35: Participants´ responses to the statement “I would accept a job in a company where I know that women earn less than men for the same job.”

Figure 36: Participants´ responses to the statement “I have been promoted at work.”

Figure 37: Participants´ responses to the statement “I believe there is a gender pay gap in the company I work for.”

Figure 38: Participants ‘responses to the statement “I am satisfied with my salary and think it is fair for the work I do.”

Figure 39: Total work burden in hours per day spent on paid and unpaid work by region and sex: 2001-2018

Index of abbreviations

OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

EU European Union

USA United States of America

CEO Chief Executive Officer

CFO Chief Financial Officer

COO Chief Operating Officer

CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

UN United Nations

OSAGI Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

AI Artificial Intelligence

1 Introduction

1.1 Problem definition and target of the thesis

The stereotypes that women belong in the kitchen and men at the office exist for what it seems like forever, and they are still not gone. Based on the research from the scientific Journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, the gender stereotypes from 1983 are now even more potent than before. The vast majority of diverse participants still give women traits like being overly sensitive, working as nurses, doing the household work, and taking care of the kids, whereas men are described as competitive engineers.1 Katherine Coffman has researched further and concluded that those gender-based stereotypes not only give women fewer chances when working and applying to the jobs but decrease their self-confidence in the long run.2 That makes them, in the end, believe that they are not competent enough to work in the professions tailored for men like math, science, technology. All that leads to women choosing lower-paying occupations, taking parental leave instead of their partners, doing all the household work, and rarely getting promoted to the senior positions which men mostly take. These reasons are precisely the ones for the persistent gender pay gap.

But there are problems when it comes to the ways of determining the gap, as well. Some measure it by calculating the annual salary of women and men in all industries and positions and then just compare it. Others consider the average hourly earnings (but it has been proved that the hourly wage increases when the working hours rise3 ) or salaries of full-time workers. Some compare salaries of people who work in the same position, have the same education and qualifications. Some take into account health, survival, political and economic participation, and empowerment. In addition to this, many countries have no public data on gender pay inequality or have just information from 2010 or older, which is not up to date, and the situation has probably changed from then until now. Moreover, lots of companies were not keeping up with pay inequality in 2020 and publishing the data because of the corona virus pandemic, which unfortunately left lots of people without the job, and many firms went bankrupt. It is important to notice the difference between adjusted and unadjusted gender pay gap, the latter representing basic information and the percentage difference between average salaries of women and men.4 The adjusted wage gap, however, considers many characteristics that are measurable and could affect (lower) the gap, like years of experience, education, position, age, location, industry, full-time/part-time working. For example, the adjusted gender pay gap in Germany in 2019 was 6,4%5 - which means that women, even when they have all the same predispositions as men, same education, age, years of experience, same position, work in the same industry and company, still earn 6,4% less than their male colleagues. And the only reason for that is that they are women, not men. Although the percentage seems low, “just” 6 %, that amount accumulates over time. Female workers, who tend to live longer than men, end up having less money when they are older. Based purely on gender-based discrimination and stereotypes such as that women are supposed to be home, cook, clean, and raise kids, or if they are hired, they could or probably will take a more extended break to have children and take care of them.

This thesis aims to show how the labour market has been developing concerning female workers and legal regulations against gender discrimination. Furthermore, it analyses the gender pay gap in detail, differences between adjusted and unadjusted gender pay gap, and gives a historical overview of the pay inequality between women and men. The possible reasons will be researched, such as educational segregation that later leads to occupational segregation, some characteristics of women like being not competitive enough or having undeveloped negotiating skills. Moreover, typical stereotypes that have been following women from the very first day, as being in the world for the sole purpose of having and raising kids, meanwhile taking care of the entire household by cooking and cleaning. Those standard images make achieving business goals and being promoted a lot more complicated because of the many hours of unpaid work they do at home. Apart from those reasons, how work is valued is an essential factor in the gender pay gap. When the adjusted pay gap is looked at, women with the same education level, same position and working hours in the same company and location, same age, same years of experience, still tend to earn up to 6,6 % less than men because they are women. As reported by Glassdoor study from 2019, men from all eight researched countries (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore) have had a pay advantage, the lowest in Australia (3,1%), the highest in Germany (6,4%) and Netherlands (6,6 %).6 That means that sometimes the work women do is less valued than their male colleagues' work, which affects pay inequality. Furthermore, the solutions that can help close the gap will be looked up. For instance, more legal regulations (like Equality Act in the USA, Pay Transparency Act in Germany, EU Action for equal pay, New Zealand´s Equal Pay Amendment Bill), pay transparency within the companies, equalising family leave for each parent (in Finland every parent gets seven months of paid family leave),7 investing in affordable, high-quality child care. There where the adjusted gender pay gap exists, increasing female salaries is the most effective solution. Another target of the thesis is finding out people's opinions in the author´s environment on pay inequality, researching the gender pay gap in the companies they work in, by conducting a survey.

1.2 Research methodology and structure of the thesis

When it comes to the research design, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, the so-called mixed methods, was used. This design is then carried out as exploratory research8 - first, qualitative discourse analysis is done, the results are evaluated interpretatively; second, a quantitative survey (with closed-ended questions where the participants must choose one or more already offered answers or rate their agreement with the assumptions made by the author) is conducted. In this way, the results are obtained on how the public perceives the author's statements and the overall gender pay gap situation. The research question - why do women still earn less than men? – is the guide for the thesis, the topic is narrowed down, the author knows in which direction the literature must be researched, the research goals are set. It is the central point of the work, serves as orientation, and is the reason why the thesis is written in the first place, to find and justify the answer to the question through the research. Moreover, it gives structure to work - the outline of the thesis and the table of contents are based on it. The three hypotheses are there to limit the paper and give direction to it too.

H1: Women are attracted to low-paying occupations.

H2: Women negotiate their salaries less often / less successfully.

H3: Women are more likely to leave a job for family responsibilities.

The quantitative analysis is grounded on applying a method that allows quantification of phenomena, that is, their numerical expression and generalization of conclusions about causality on the entire population.9 This approach is good for testing theories, relations, identifying specific data patterns, and explaining action-reaction correspondence between occurrences.10 Disadvantages of the quantitative approach are the inability to capture the context, as well as to embrace everything necessary for a complete understanding of social interactions deeply. Also, since quantitative research is generally deductive, the results are limited by the study's variables. On the other hand, a qualitative draft is usually inductive, creates opportunities to question the existing ideas, develop new theories and be open to the perspective of research participants, which is missing in quantitative research.11 The main difficulties and problems with qualitative research are credibility and consistency of data, the objectivity of the conclusions, and the generalization of the research results.12 The author has chosen the combination of discourse analysis and survey; discourse analysis because she likes to read a lot and research from newspapers, books, podcasts, videos and not from interviews, group discussions, observations. “Although it is time-consuming, the method gives an insight into many different perspectives and sources of information, shows the development of the research subject over time, and has a high reliability (results are consistent).”13 It is especially suitable for this thesis because the topic is current. There is a lot of information posted on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts daily about it, so it is easy to get a lot of the latest news. There is not so much effort to find the relevant and current information, but to pick out the most important ones for the topic. The advantages are that the process is very transparent and follows fixed rules and steps, the method is flexible and can be adapted to numerous contents and topics, and the author is independent of the participation or cooperation of others in the implementation.14 Concerning the disadvantages, the biggest one is that the results' quality is highly dependent on the quality of the materials analysed - are they relevant, authentic, credible, and representative.15

Questionnaires are data collection methods based on asking questions – they are suitable for assessment of attitudes, opinions, beliefs, feelings, needs, motivations, behaviours (past and anticipated) and to collect demographic data.16 This survey concerning the gender pay gap is convenient in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic because it is done online, without any human contact and risk of getting infected. Some other benefits are that it allows anonymity, excludes the interviewer's action on the answers, requires less effort and time because a more significant number of respondents can be questioned simultaneously. The closed-ended questions do not require greater literacy of the respondents, who are then faced with a more manageable task; a larger number of questions can be asked, they are easier to process, and have a higher verification value.17 Yet, the drawbacks are that sometimes the interviewer's presence can guarantee greater seriousness of the respondents when giving answers, and more complicated questions can be asked. The closed-ended questions are more challenging to put together than the open-ended, the respondent is limited in providing answers, questions can passivate respondents, and they have less heuristic value (do not stimulate further reflection and new thoughts).18

The thesis structure consists of five chapters – the first one is the introduction divided into two subchapters that explain the problem definition and target, research methodology, and structure. Then comes the second chapter about women's position in the labour market, where in two subchapters, the historical overview of female workers and their labour rights are given. The third chapter is about the reasons and solutions for the gender pay gap; in the fourth section, the survey's study and findings are presented. Finally, in the fifth chapter, a conclusion is drawn based on all the processed data of the discourse analysis and the conducted survey regarding the goal achievement and perspectives.

The guideline used for this thesis is the “Guidelines for the formal design of seminar papers and theses” created by Prof. Dr. Dr. habil. Clemens Jäger, Prof. Dr. Thomas Kümpel, Prof. Dr. Anja Seng, Status May 2020 (it can be accessed in the FOM Online Campus – Meine Hochschule – Download Center).

2 Position of women in the labour market

2.1 Historical overview

The gender stereotypes go back to prehistorical times, with many people thinking that men were hunting and women gathering. Still, in 2013 a native Peruvian found a 9000-year-old grave in the Andes Mountains Peru of a very skilled female hunter. The researchers have thought it was a man, but the bones and dental analysis showed that it was a girl, around 18 years old, who had tools for hunting and processing of the animals buried with her, which proves that some of the earliest wild animals’ hunters were in a fact female.19 It was later found out that many bones of hunters, which were stated to be men's, indeed belonged to women. When scientists revisited the place in 2018, they took 27 bones found with a hunting toolkit; 16 of them were male and 11 females,20 so women not only hunted actively but might have made up to half of the hunting population. Another recent research shows that women then had more muscular arms than female rowers now because of the hard farming work they did daily. In 2017, European scientists compared the ancient female skeletons with the present-day athletes, including the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club members. They have concluded that women living in 5000 BC had stronger arms than the women mentioned above in the rowing club due to difficult field work they have been doing like grinding grain to make flour, creating tools, vases, dishes from stones and ceramic, digging holes to plant and later harvesting, nurturing sheep, goats, pigs, brining water home, as well as the stereotypical female jobs like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids, among others.21 Unfortunately, the daily hard work combined with the unsanitary living conditions and no access to medical care has negatively affected prehistoric women's life span – they would usually die before turning 20, and the life expectancy was around 35 years.22 Since women have been hunting, collecting, and distributing food within the families, they were essential to society, so they were not oppressed, underestimated, or had restricted freedom, confirmed by a study from 2015.23

Women in ancient societies have constantly fought for females to have more rights, equality, and freedom to choose jobs that are not just hunting, gathering, and household work. One of them was Agnodice, the first known female gynaecologist and midwife. Even though it was illegal for women in Athens to study for and work as a doctor, she started her education in Egypt and, after successfully finishing it, moved back to Athens, where she treated women disguised as a man.24 Around 4000 years BC, Saint Fabiola is also mentioned, a nurse, the first known surgeon from Rome, a mathematician writing lots of scientific books, and founder of many public hospitals and hospices.25 Females were widespread in many branches - some of them were poets and writers, like Enheduanna, Telesilla of Argos, Anyte of Tegea, Julia Balbilla, Faltonia Betitia Proba, Metrodora (who wrote the book On the Diseases and Cures of Women ), some philosophers as Timycha of Sparta, Arete of Cyrene, Hipparchia of Maroneia, Julia Domna, also mathematicians Theano of Crotona, and Hypatia, who was astronomer too like Aglaonike.26 Finally, women have been leaders as well – they either ruled independently or acted through their husbands and sons. The first-ever mentioned female ruler in the world is Kubaba, the queen of Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia. Most women worked as bartenders, making and selling clothes and food, brewing beer and wine, and Kubaba followed that example too – she was working as a bartender and making her beer before she took the throne.27

Figure 1: Queen Kubaba – the bartender who became the first-ever female ruler

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source:, accessed on 13.01.2021

Hatshepsut was the first female Pharaoh, and she ruled Egypt for almost 20 years;28 since it was not allowed for a woman to be a pharaoh, she married her half brother, who was eight years old, and she was then by law allowed to lead instead of him (through him) because he was too young. Nefertiti, whose name means “a beautiful woman has arrived,”29 was not just a beautiful, but the powerful queen of Egypt. She set up a new religion together with her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten, that gave them power over everyone, and they ruled equally. She oversaw all aspects of the royal court, served as a priest, enforced law, and was portrayed with a pharaoh crown, so it is believed she ruled as a sole pharaoh after her husband´s death. Teuta was the Illyrian pirate queen - after her husband Agron died, she led through her stepson and managed to defend and spread her kingdom with pirate attacks.30 The only queen who could read and write in Egyptian even though she was Macedonian Greek, Cleopatra, considered herself a goddess and is thought to be one of the most violent leaders. She could speak nine languages, thus men treated her equally, and when her father died, she married her brother and took over the throne (she later killed her three siblings so she can lead).31 Theodora was the empress of Byzantium, married to the emperor Justinian. She has influenced the enactment of laws that gave women the right to property, divorce, and inheritance, to have more custody over children; also, rape was punished by death, and women who cheated on their husbands were not killed anymore.32 Those are just a few examples of many other influential female leaders in those times, like Hatshepsut, Sobekneferu, Twosret, Tiye, Deborah, Artemisia of Caria.

During middle age, women had a low-level position in society due to the domination of the church's teachings that women should be silent and submissive wives. Their families usually arranged the marriages, and they would be doing the usual household work like cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids, and helping their husbands in the field.33 When it comes to education, “A woman should learn neither to read nor write, unless she is interested in taking vows, because women's reading, and writing has brought about many evils"34 as medieval historian Phillip of Novara said. Education was accessible for nuns, rich women, and married women (but their husbands let them only read religious texts ). Whereas most women could choose between being a wife or a nun, some have managed to succeed in other areas, like Nicola de la Haye. She inherited lots of properties in England and Normandy after her father´s death, including the famous Lincoln Castle, which she has protected and therefore prevented France from taking the English throne.35 Another powerful woman was Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had an essential role in the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. She firstly stuck to the Lancaster’s, but when York´s House took the lead, she sensibly married a Yorkist, Thomas Stanley, so her son Henry could become a king.36 In addition to this, she translated lots of books and founded two constituent colleges of the Cambridge University - St. John’s and Christ’s Colleges.37 Queen Philippa of Hainault was influential but very kind and compassionate, making her popular among the England people. After her brother died, she was a Countess of Hainault in her own right and has helped many people when she got married. Marriage was her diplomatic tool enabling the avoidance of war, termination of the existing ones, making the king more merciful – she even once begged him on his knees not to execute the many Burghers of Calais.38 There were many more medieval powerful and successful women, such as Ende, Guda and Claricia (famous book illuminators), Hrotsvitha von Gandersheim, Frau Ava, Hildegard (German writers), Trota of Salerno, and Rebecca de Guarna (doctors – in Salerno in Italy women were allowed to go to college).39

The new era starts with America's discovery in 1492 (or with the Fall of Constantinople in 1493) - the European settlement on the new continent begins. Since men alone could not take care of cattle, prepare food, and do other household work, agencies were open to send girls to the New World. When they came to the colonies, they took care of the house and kids and usually worked in sales and as waitresses. But, there were female leaders in that time as well, like the English queens Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Parr, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth 1., Mary Tudor, French queen Catherine de Medici, including poets Vittoria Colonna, Louise Labe, Tullia d'Aragona, artists Plautilla Nelli, Lavinia Fontana, Caterina van Hemessen, Barbara Longhi, and many more.40 In the second half of the 18th century came the Industrial Revolution, which affected women´s lives negatively – apart from doing the household work, they were forced to work in the factories and in mines in inhumane conditions and were paid less than men.41 The reason behind that gender pay gap was that society did not want women to steal jobs from men, and on the other hand, they were as effective as men but more obedient so that they would do the same job as men, but for less money. Later the first world war brought some changes concerning the division of labour, although most women were still working as nurses and doctors to help in the war, like Helen Fairchild, Flora Sandes, Evelina Haverfield, Edith Cavell, Dr. Elsie Inglis. Females started working in male-dominated occupations – bank tellers, auto mechanics, weapon factories, locomotive dispatcher, airplane works, locomotive wiper, and oiler.42 It is crucial to mention Jane Addams and Mary Anderson, who founded the National Women’s Trade Union League43 to protect women's labor rights and make above mentioned male jobs more accessible to females. The same thing happened after the Second World War – while men were fighting, women took over “men´s” jobs as taxi drivers and workers in the construction, government, office, agriculture, and factories.44 They have then shown that they can do it as well as men, so they just continued working in those branches after the war too. The picture below shows Naomi Parker Fraley, a waitress who started working in a factory during the war and was the inspiration for the Rosie the Riveter poster.

Figure 2: Naomi Parker Fraley – inspiration for the famous Rosie the Riveter poster

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenAbbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Siegler, B., Signs of resistance, 2018, pp. 46 – 47

2.2 Women’s labour rights

Almost in every part of the world, gender equality and the right to work are fundamental rights. To protect them even more, countries and institutions pass additional laws and regulations.

2.2.1 European Union

One of them is European Union, with lots of measures, strategies, actions, and expert groups to help close the gender pay gap, improve women´s situation in the labour market and their work-life balance, ensure equal pay and participation in decision making, and end violence based on the gender identity. Gender equality strategy 2020 – 2025 wants to achieve gender-equal Europe until 2025, concentrating on the protection and improvement of women's status, both in relationships and at work. The emphasis is on closing both the gender pay and pension gap, ending violence against women, giving them equal opportunities and access to the labour market, especially in leading positions.45 Moreover, compulsory pay transparency measures will be taken in all EU member countries to ensure women get paid the same amount for the same job as men (currently, they earn around 16 % less per hour).46 Member countries have to employ at least one of the pursuit measures: have pay audits in companies to research and publish salaries of male and female employees based on the positions they have, give employees the opportunity to ask for and get information on the wages of other employees, make companies do the pay reports with a detailed description of salaries by positions and gender.47 Even though the recommendation was already given in 2014 (but unbinding), until November 2020, there were still lots of countries with no measures taken (see the graphic below), so that is why this strategy is now binding.

Figure 3: Pay transparency measures in the EU in November 2020

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: , accessed on 20.1.2021

There is lots of legislation about the work-life balance too, like the Right to maternity leave (which lets women have at least 14 weeks of maternity leave, two are obligatory), Right to paternity leave ( no less than ten working days off of work), Right to parental leave (minimum four months, out of which at least two months cannot be moved from one parent to another).48 Furthermore, Carers leave, which allows employees to take five working days a year off to take care of relatives and close family, Right to request flexible working arrangements for working parents with the kids that are minimum of eight years old and carers.49 Whereas the EU sets the minimum days off and compensation, member countries can decide all the other details precisely, but making sure the minimum requirements are fulfilled. Those measures will take effect on the 2nd of August 2022; until then, parents have four weeks of parental leave (but at least one month is non-transferable, not two like in the new directive), paternity leave does not exist, and only parents who come back from the paternity leave can request flexible working hours.50 Since women do 75% of unpaid household work and childcare,51 actions will be taken by investing in accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and implementing Child guarantee across the Union to enable every child free health care and education, satisfactory living conditions, and prevent malnutrition.

Another problem that is taken into account is the under-representation of women in decision-making positions, especially in politics and company boards. Only 36% of all managers in the EU are women, 28,8 % on the company boards – the most significant increase of women leaders has been seen in the countries where those requirements are binding, like in France, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Belgium.52 The draft of the Women on boards Directive from 2012 is currently revived because at the beginning, the consensus was not reached on fines if a minimum of 40 % of women is not on non-executive board seats. The new proposal wants to expand that percentage on executive boards too, in private and public companies, including senior positions quota, promote transparent recruitment process which is inclusive of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and gender, lessen discrimination of disabled people, introduce business training programmes for women, and set a deadline until which measures have to be taken in all member countries.53 When it comes to the European Parliament, just 39,5% of members are women.54 With the Gender Equality Strategy, political decision-making wants to be spread to the women by encouraging them to vote and candidate for the next elections in 2024 and regulate political parties in the Union to be more gender-balanced and transparent.55 In 2010, The European Commission founded the Platform of Diversity Charters, where companies, public bodies, non-profit organisations regularly meet, hold seminars, and share their ideas, actions, and measures that promote and enable a gender-balanced workplace.56 In the Platform, everyone is treated (and paid) the same, regardless of their sex, race, ethnicity, origin, disability, sexual orientation.57 They concentrate on the work-life balance by introducing flexible working hours, implement lots of training and programmes for employees and candidates, organise mental health classes.58

2.2.2 Council of Europe

Council of Europe has 47 member states (20 more than EU)59. It introduced a new Gender Equality Strategy in 2018 with six strategic objectives to help decrease gender inequality: prevent gender stereotypes and sexism, combat domestic violence and violence against women, secure equal access to justice for women, increase the percentage of women in the decision making positions (both in economy and politics), ensure gender equality in all policies, programmes, jobs, actions, and protect the rights of females with a migrant background.60 These goals want to be achieved with all member countries, organisations, and individuals, to guarantee an equal world for all genders. Regarding stereotypes, sexism, gender mainstreaming, and under-representation of women in leading positions, Council will create and provide educational programmes, policies, tools, and training to eliminate gender-based discrimination. First, it will be worked on the disadvantaged role of women because of tradition, disability, ethnicity, sexuality, and on the image of women in the (because of) the media.61 Second, more attention will be paid to investing in affordable childcare, enabling flexible working hours, encouraging men to work more in the female occupations and to take paternity leave, improving pay transparency within companies, and motivate women of all races, ethnicities to apply for jobs without fear of rejection.62

Moreover, in terms of domestic violence and violence against women, the Istanbul Convention from 2011 has made a big step in protecting women. It is the first legally binding international instrument to criminalize acts such as physical, psychological, and sexual violence and sexual harassment, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, forced abortions.63 Once signed and ratified, countries must introduce these serious crimes into their criminal legislation. An important segment of the Istanbul Convention is that the state will have to commit to annually fund shelters for women, legal and psychological counseling, financial help, education, and help find a job.64 In addition to this, it will be worked on enabling all women to have access to courts, lawyers, and fair trial, irrespective of their political, economic, and educational status.65 They can then report any kind of discrimination in the working place (like earning less money than male colleagues, being rejected for a job or promotion because of having kids) and in other areas of life.

2.2.3 United Nations

Just two countries in the world are not members of the UN – Vatican City and Palestine, meaning that all others have to follow the UN's regulations and rules concerning gender equality. Charter of the UN says in articles 8 and 101 that women and men should never be discriminated against, restricted, or unequally treated because of their gender, which is mentioned in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in articles 2 and 23.66 CEDAW from 1979 is a legally binding instrument for the countries that sign it and ratify it, and there is The Committee that controls the implementation of the rules in those countries.67 It is essential because it sets the Bill of Rights for women68 and offers a practical way that governments can look out for issues that affect women and find policy solutions. It takes an innovative approach because it requires countries that sign it (almost every country globally, until now 189 countries)69 to take all adequate steps to eliminate discrimination against women and ensure their equal development. Because it covers all areas of life, like healthcare, equality before the law, stereotyping, marriage, rural living, political life, human trafficking, prostitution, employment rights, parental rights, full rights to education,70 it is relevant to every woman and girl. Discrimination is unluckily still a big issue, especially when it comes to violence against women and girls, the gender pay gap, and the under-representation of women in leading positions. The CEDAW, therefore, obligates the countries to implement and introduce measures, policies, and actions that will prevent, control, and combat the above-mentioned ongoing problems. Since the Committee controls them, women should start seeing an improvement in enjoying their human rights.

Beijing Platform for Action is another UN policy – it is based on improving the position of women in power and the decision-making occupations. The platform was first introduced in September 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing,71 and the primary purpose was gender equality and empowering women and girls. As a result, the 189 governments agreed on the Beijing Platform for Action that consisted of essential and concrete steps to help achieve gender equality. The Platform is primarily concerned with eliminating barriers to the equal engagement of women in economic, cultural, and political decision-making, as well as to the realization of equal rights for women and men in private and public life.72 The strategic tasks are focused on the 12 key areas: “reducing women's poverty, educating and training women, improving their health, eliminating violence against women, protecting them in areas of armed conflict, ensuring economic equality in economic activities, supporting women to engage more in power and decision-making positions, as well as developing mechanisms for improving the position of women, protection of women's human rights, affirmation of women in the media, respect for the role of women in environmental protection, and most importantly protecting young girls from the sexual abuse, genital mutilation, breast ironing, and forced marriage.”73 The signatory countries are obliged to develop institutional mechanisms for gender equality and ensure an adequate budget to improve women's position and rights.

Apart from those mentioned measures, there were additional policies and actions taken from 1999 until 2012 about women´s rights and position in economics, politics, private and public life, introduced by the OSAGI, which was created in 1997.74 Those are Special measures for the achievement of gender equality (focus on the discrimination in the workplace and the recruitment process),75 Establishment of focal points for women in UN Peacekeeping Missions (to found gender equality at the decision making positions and gender balance in the family responsibilities),76 Flexible working arrangements (to help women in the work-life balance). Regarding family, there are Family leave, maternity leave ( 6 weeks of paid leave before giving birth and after birth up to 16 weeks), and paternity leave (up to 4 weeks); sick leave can be used for family purposes.77 Additionally, adoption leave is up to 8 weeks long, or up to 2 years unpaid for an adopted child or biological child.78

3 Gender Pay Gap

In the EU in 2020, women symbolically worked for free from the 10th of November until the end of the year, which means almost two months of unpaid work due to the average difference of 14,1 % between women’s and men’s pay per hour.79 The United Kingdom marked in 2020 50 years from the Equal Pay Act that banned employers from paying women and men for the same job differently, but women working full time still earned 7,4 % less than men last year.80 Norwegian female workers have made in 2020 13% less than men per hour,81 and Swiss women on average 20 % less.82 The situation is not any better in the rest of the world. Women in Canada earned on average 87 cents compared to the 1 dollar that men made in 2018 (13.3 % hourly wage gap). Although it has been over 50 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in the USA in 1963, which mandated that employers pay women and men equally for equal work, among full-time workers, women still earn just 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.83 Latin American women have unfortunately earned even less - 49 to 68 cents for every dollar men made, depending on the country they work in.84 The hourly wage gap is large for South African women too, who earn up to 35 % less than men for the same job.85 According to the survey conducted in 2020 by the Women of China, a non-profit website, women in China are paid per hour 17 % less than Chinese men86. In 2019, Taiwanese women had to work 52 days more than men to get the same salary87 because they are paid 14.2 % less per hour, Indian women 19 % less,88 Japanese women 24.5% less (even with the then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe´s Womenomics plan from 2014, which was meant to close the gender wage gap by offering more affordable and flexible child care, getting more women to work, empowering them, offering fair salaries and at least 30% of leading positions – but in 2020, one-fifth of companies in Japan had no women at leading roles, and in others, they made less than 10 % of leaders).89 There is a significant gender pay gap in Indonesia - even though more female workers have a college degree than male workers, they still earn even 23 % less.90 The same thing is happening to Russian women – they tend to live longer, are more educated and qualified, and gain an averagely of 30 % less than their male colleagues.91

Out of the countries that belong to the OECD, the worst wage gap has the Republic of Korea, where women have earned 32,5 % less than Korean men, based on the latest available data (from 2019).92 Australia has a current wage gap of 14 %, based on the full-time salaries in all branches and positions,93 and New Zealand 9.5 % in 2020.94 All these facts above show that gender pay gap is an ongoing global problem that still has not been solved, despite the many legislation and actions against it. As already mentioned in the introduction, there are problems in data on the gender pay gap because not many statistics consider the difference between the adjusted and unadjusted gap. The latter simply compares the medium wages of men and women who work full time, and it does not tell how the wage gap would look like for women with different educational status, different ages, positions, companies, locations, experiences – information that is important to start closing the gap. But, women face more obstacles in their career paths which lead to them earning less than men - they are usually the ones who take maternity leave, work part-time because they have to take care of the kids and household (lots of hours of unpaid work), don’t get promotions because they have children and cannot work long hours. They are often rejected already in the recruitment process because they are young and will probably have kids in the future and leave the job. And whether they choose typical female occupations or male ones, they earn less than men in both. One example is the medical assistant job, where more than 90% of employees are female, but men in this female-dominated occupation have 43% higher gross wage than their female colleagues.95 The teaching position is dominated by women as well, but according to a study from 2018, female teachers earn yearly on average 7,775 dollars less than male teachers.96 On the other hand, in some typical male jobs, like engineers, technicians, construction, women still earn less than males, although they work in better-paying occupations.

Figure 4: Gender pay gap

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: , accessed on 02.02.2021

When the wage gap is adjusted, and just workers within the same company, branch, ages of experience, education level, and same position are compared, the gap still exists. For instance, sales managers in Germany, with the same education level, ten years of experience, working 38 hours a week, without any special extra payments, earn monthly on average 3220 euros gross if they are men, and 18% less (2640 euros gross) if they are women.97 It can be then concluded that discrimination and stereotypes still play a significant role in this continuing gender pay gap – no matter how much women try, get educated, work hard, negotiate, they still will be paid less if they even get a job. Just because their female work is less valued and many people, even now in 2021, think they belong in the kitchen. Furthermore, based on the adjusted pay gap, for every dollar that men earn, women earn 98 cents in the USA (compared to the 82 cents of unadjusted gap),98 Australia follows with 97 cents, France and Canada with 96 cents, United Kingdom and Singapore with 95 cents, German women 94 cents, and Dutch females earn on average 93 cents for every euro a man makes.99 Those are still high numbers if it is borne in mind that women fulfill all other requirements like men, just do not have the “right” gender that makes more money.

3.1 Possible reasons for the gender pay gap

3.1.1 Education-based occupational segregation

Occupational segregation has a vertical and a horizontal component – vertical segregation refers to women being usually concentrated in the lower levels of the labour market, without much power and progress opportunities, whereas men tend to occupy more powerful and influential positions.100 On the other hand, horizontal segregation indicates employment of women and men in different kind of jobs, with women dominating in careers like preschool and kindergarten teachers, dental and medical assistants, hairdressers, cosmetologists, nutritionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants,101 and men taking positions as managers, engineers, software developers, financial analysts, camera operators and editors, architects, pilots.102 To get more into detail, a recent study by the International Labour Organization has shown that women make up 88% of all personal care workers, 74% of cleaners and helpers, 68% of teaching professionals, 66% of customer service clerks, 60% of all food preparation assistants, while men account for 97% of all building workers and drivers, 95% of armed forces, 84% of science and engineering associate professionals, 80% of information and communications technology professionals, 72% of all Chief executives, senior officials and legislators.103 These differences then lead to the glass ceiling (obstacles that women face in professional advancement ) and accordingly to the sticky floor (which does not allow women to climb up but keeps them attached to lower hierarchical levels), explained in the following chapters. One reason for that segregation can be that women just don´t have time to work more and come to the leading positions because of all the unpaid household and child care work they do. In addition to this, taking maternity leave more often than men (which is again based on the still present stereotypes that women are supposed to take care of the house and kids, and men are assumed only to work and earn money), being not as competitive, and the educational choices can cause the segregation as well. According to the Georgetown University research, women mostly choose college majors in early childhood and elementary school education, medical assistance, school counselling, library, nutrition, and consumer sciences, nursing; men, however, marine, mechanical, nuclear and electrical engineering, military technologies, construction services, industrial technologies majors.104 The possible cause of females choosing exactly those majors (which are later usually lower-paying) is that they already think about having to take care of the children and household later in life. That is why they choose jobs where they are more flexible, can work part-time, and go back to work after maternity leave (whereas science, math, engineering employees have to constantly work to keep up to date with new technologies, inventions, information, and military forces, for example, demand lots of field work, often out of the country). Moreover, the stereotypes play a big role – girls, growing up, have commonly looked at women taking care of the kids and older people, cooking, cleaning, and working in the above-mentioned female-dominated occupations. All of that, combined with religious/cultural traditions, and little girls being constantly told not to play like a girl or to make a sandwich for a man, reading books where women are in the kitchen, and men are astronauts, firefighters, big bosses, can have a big influence on women choosing their college majors. But it is important to notice that in some typical female jobs, men earn more than women, and women earn less than men in male-dominated occupations that are supposed to be better paying. Glassdoor published research in 2019, with adjusted gender pay gaps, where all variables that might contribute to the differences between salaries are controlled, just the gender is different. In the jobs where men make up most employees, women tend to earn a lot less, although they fulfil all identical requirements and have exactly the same predispositions as their male colleagues. To give an instance, female pilots earn on average 26,6 % less than male pilots; if women manage to achieve the C-Suite positions (CEO, CFO, COO), they earn 24% less than male leaders, as managers around 13% less, female retail representatives 12,2% less, in computer programming 11,6 % less105 – and, to emphasize again, those percentages are that high even when all factors are taken into account, such as age, experience, education level, position, company, location, working hours. Furthermore, men earn more regardless of working in typical female or male jobs. The so-called glass escalator is the term first used by the sociology Professor Doctor Christine L. Williams, in her article "The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the "Female" Professions."106 She explains that men have invisible advantages in the pink-collar women-dominated jobs that enable them to advance fast, earn more money than women and reach the leading positions quicker than their female colleagues.That then disputes the opinion that the reason why women earn less is that they choose lower-paying jobs. Stereotypes and discrimination are strong in all branches, and women earn less no matter if they choose male-dominated or female-dominated jobs. A Resume study from 2020 has shown that women make up almost 80% of all cleaners and helpers but still earn 35,2% less than male cleaners, 77% of librarians are women, and they earn on average 30,6 % less.107 Moreover, 91,2 % of receptionists are females, but men earn 25% more, travel agents are usually women (75%), yet men in this profession earn around 20% more, and the list goes on and on.108

3.1.2 Maternity leave

If women want to earn more, be promoted to the senior leaders’ positions, they usually have to postpone the idea of having children or completely abandon it. The so-called motherhood penalty still significantly influences salaries, employment, reaching leadership positions, and any career advancements. If women are working mothers, they are perceived as more emotional and irrational, less serious, unprofessional, without necessary authority, aggression, dedication, and flexibility that is important in the business world.109 In addition to this, balancing family and work responsibilities can affect mental health, too, with more employees reporting burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and worry if they mention family or wish to start a family, they might get fired. As informed by Bright Horizon´s research, 21% of women are scared to tell their boss they are pregnant, and 81% of working mothers don´t want to address the topic of kids and kids’ related events like school plays, football games, or family dinners and birthdays, out of the fear to be judged or considered incompetent for the work.110 For that reason, 1 in 4 working mothers lies about being sick to spend more quality time with their family.111 If they were honest about why they have to take time off work, 32% have stated they would probably lose their job, 26% would not be promoted, and 28 % would not get a pay rise.112 When it comes to parental leave, women are still the ones who usually take time off to take care of the children, and many countries do not have paternity leave regulated. If they do, most men do not take it because they fear judgment in the company, reduced salaries, and missed business opportunities.


1 Cf. Haines, E. L. et al., Gender stereotypes, 2016, p. 353 et seqq.

2 Cf . Coffman, K. et al., Beliefs about gender, 2018, p. 4 et seqq.

3 Cf., accessed on 15.12.2020.

4 Cf. Auth, D. et al., Gender and family, 2016, p. 23.

5 Cf. Chamberlain, A. et al., Gender pay gap, 2019, p. 4.

6 Cf. Chamberlain, A. et al., Gender pay gap, 2019, p. 4.

7 Cf., accessed on 17.12.2020.

8 Cf . Mihas, P., Mixed method design, 2019, no page.

9 Cf. Queirós, A. et al., Research methods, 2017, p. 370 et seqq.

10 Cf. ibid.

11 Cf. Aspers, P., Corte, U., Qualitative research, 2019, p. 139 et seqq.

12 Cf. Leung, L., Validity, reliability, and generalizability, 2015, pp. 324 – 327.

13 Barisic, B., Women leaders, 2020, p. 2.

14 Cf. Mallett, R. et al., Systematic reviews, 2012, pp. 445 – 455.

15 Cf., accessed on 03.01.2021.

16 Cf. Glasow, P. A., Survey research method, 2005, p. 1 et seqq.

17 Cf. Hyman, M.R., Sierra, J.J, Survey questions, p. 2.

18 Cf. ibid.

19 Cf. Haas, R. et al., Female hunters, 2020, p. 1 et seqq.

20 Cf. ibid ., p. 4.

21 Cf. Macintosh, A.A. et al., Prehistoric women, 2017, p. 1 et seqq.

22 Cf. Zakrzewski, S. R., Life expectancy, 2015, p. 5.

23 Cf. Dyble, M. et al., Sex equality, 2015, pp. 796 – 798.

24 Cf. Hancock – Jones, R. et al., Classical civilisation, 2017, p. 94.

25 Cf. Luft, E., Historical papers, 2020, p. 181.

26 Cf., accessed on 13.01.2021.

27 Cf. Stol, M., Ancient women, 2016, p. 462.

28 Cf. Thomas, S., Hatshepsut, 2003, p. 12.

29 Lange, B., Nefertiti, 2013, no page.

30 Cf. Yolen, J., Women pirates, 2010, p.13 et seqq.

31 Cf. Uhl, X. M., Cleopatra, 2017, p. 6.

32 Cf. , accessed on 15.01.2021.

33 Cf., accessed on 15.01.2021.

34 Spivack, C., Herold, C., Medieval literature, 2002, p. 126.

35 Cf. Huscroft, R., Angevin Empire, 2016, p. 244.

36 Cf., accessed on 17.01.2021.

37 Cf., accessed on 17.01.2021.

38 Cf . Baker, D., French and English cultures, 2000, p. 243 et seqq.

39 Cf., accessed on 17.01.2021.

40 Cf ., accessed on 17.01.2021.

41 Cf . Burnette, J., Women´s wages, 2004, p. 2 et seqq.

42 Cf ., accessed on 18.01.2021.

43 Cf. Arnesen, E., US labour history, 2007, p. 105.

44 Cf., accessed on 18.01.2021.

45 Cf., accessed on 19.01.2021.

46 Cf. European Commission, Union of Equality, 2020, p. 2.

47 Cf . Aumayr – Pintar, C., Mårtensson, M., Pay transparency, 2020, p. 1 et seqq.

48 Cf., accessed on 20.01.2021.

49 Cf. ibid.

50 Cf., accessed on 20.01.2021.

51 Cf. European Commission, Union of Equality, 2020, p. 2.

52 Cf. European Trade Union Confederation, Gender balance, 2020, p. 2 et seqq.

53 Cf. ibid.

54 Cf. European Parliament, Women in parliaments, 2020, p. 1.

55 Cf. European Commission, Democracy action plan, 2020, p. 4 et seqq.

56 Cf., accessed on 23.01.2021.

57 Cf., accessed on 23.01.2021.

58 Cf. ibid.

59 Cf., accessed on 24.01.2021.

60 Cf. Council of Europe, Gender equality, 2018, p. 3 et seqq.

61 Cf. ibid.

62 Cf. ibid.

63 Cf. Wierzbicki,A., Istanbul convention, 2019, p. 1 et seqq.

64 Cf., accessed on 24.01.2021.

65 Cf. Council of Europe, Gender equality, 2018, p. 24 et seqq.

66 Cf., accessed on 26.01.2021.

67 Cf. United Nations, Discrimination against women, 1979, p. 7 et seqq.

68 Cf. Klaveren, M., Tijdens, K., Empowering women, 2013, p. 133.

69 Cf. Mapp, S., Human rights, 2020, p. 273.

70 Cf. International Women's Development Agency, CEDAW, 2016, pp. 1 – 2.

71 Cf. Healy, L.M., Thomas, R.L., Social work, p. 150.

72 Cf., accessed on 28.01.2021.

73, accessed on 28.01.2021.

74 Cf. Dominelli, L., Women and community action, 2019, p. 214.

75 Cf., accessed on 28.01.2021.

76 Cf. United Nations, Status of women, 2000, p. 12.

77 Cf., accessed on 28.01.2021.

78 Cf. ibid.

79 Cf. European Commission, Equal pay, 2020, p. 1.

80 Cf., accessed on 28.01.2021.

81 Cf ., accessed on 28.01.2021.

82 Cf ., accessed on 28.01.2021.

83 Cf. US Congress, Equal Pay Act, 1963, p. 53.

84 Cf. Garces Carvayal, T., Hernandez - Salgado, L., Gender pay gap, 2018, p. 1.

85 Cf. Bosch, A., Barit, S., Gender pay transparency, 2020, p. 1.

86 Cf., accessed on 28.01.2021.

87 Cf., accessed on 30.01.2021.

88 Cf., accessed on 30.01.2021.

89 Cf., accessed on 30.01.2021.

90 Cf., accessed on 30.01.2021.

91 Cf. Atencio, A., Posadas, J., Gender gap in pay, 2011, p. 1 et seqq.

92 Cf ., accessed on 30.01.2021.

93 Cf., accessed on 30.01.2021.

94 Cf ., accessed on 30.01.2021.

95 Cf., accessed on 02.02.2021.

96 Cf . Marchitello, M., Pension problems, 2018, p. 6.

97 Cf ., accessed on 02.02.2021.

98 Cf., accessed on 02.02.2021.

99 Cf. Chamberlain, A. et al., Gender pay gap, 2019, p. 4.

100 Cf. Laursen, S., Austin, A., Gender Equity, 2020, p. 7.

101 Cf., accessed on 03.02.2021.

102 Cf. U.S. Bureau of labour statistics, Labour force, 2019, p. 47 et seqq.

103 Cf ., accessed on 03.02.2021.

104 Cf. Carnevale, A. P. et al., College majors, 2014, p. 14.

105 Cf. Chamberlain, A. et al., Gender pay gap, 2019, p. 27.

106 Cf. Williams, C.L., The Glass Escalator, 1992, pp. 253 – 267.

107 Cf., accessed on 05.02.2021.

108 Cf. ibid.

109 Cf. Correll,S.J. et al., Motherhood Penalty, 2007, p. 1297 et seqq.

110 Cf. Bright Horizons, Modern family index, 2019, p. 3.

111 Cf. ibid.

112 Cf. ibid.

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Gender pay gap. Why do women still earn less than men?
University of applied sciences, Munich
International Management
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gender pay gap, glass ceiling, sticky floor, pay transparency, female leaders, occupational segregation, family leave, mixed methods, childcare
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Barbara Barisic (Author), 2021, Gender pay gap. Why do women still earn less than men?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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