If men have taken the top jobs, why is there an employment gap and where are the women?
The employment gap between men and women crosses different sectors, roles and expectations. It is a systemic problem we need to change.
Girls do better than boys at school, and they are 36% more likely to start degree courses. However, on entering the workforce men make an average of 18.4% more than women in the UK. Furthermore, although 50% of middle management roles are held by women, less than 5% of CEOs are female. The figures don’t add up. How is it possible that women are becoming more qualified yet not being rewarded for it? Why is there such an employment gap?
Different sectors for different genders
One answer is that men and women tend to take on different jobs in different sectors. Four of the five top highest earning subjects studied at university are male-dominated. Although more women go to university, men study the lucrative subjects. For example, only 20% of engineering school graduates are female. This number then drops to only 11% of practising engineers. In contrast, 90% of nurses and mid-wives are women. It is not because of talent, as the girls outperform the boys all through school. Rather it is because of gender stereotypes. Girls and boys get pushed into different spheres of interest from a young age. This leads to different interests and ambitions, plus a big employment gap.
Read more in our Women in STEM series on the gender stereotypes that prevent women from entering STEM here.
Tradition leads to habit
Then there are the age-old traditions and expectations, which can be hard to shake. There are more men taking on skilled trades, such as farming and electricians. For example, for every 74 male plumbing apprentices, there is only one female. These are historically male jobs that most women will never have really considered.
There is also the fact that at one point it became the norm for men to be the main bread-winner. This could explain why 33% of female graduates take on part-time work, compared to only 8% of male graduates. Women could be more open to taking on any work, to get the experience or balance a job with other interests. Men may feel that part-time work isn’t an option for them. It is another cog in the system which reinforces the employment gap.
However, picking different spheres doesn’t account for the gap when men and women do the same job. Nor does it explain how they can begin at the same level, but only men make it to the top. Five out of six primary and nursery school-teachers are women. On the basis that people get paid more in their own gender’s sphere, why do male primary and nursery school teachers get paid more than their female counterparts? Why are 60% of junior managers women, but only five of the FTSE 100 CEOs?
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A lot of this is to do with men and women’s different attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. You can read more about the different office behaviours HERE, but here is a brief breakdown. Men are often more outspoken and more confident. They ask for pay-rises and promotions, regardless of how qualified they are. Women tend to be more hesitant to put themselves forward.
There are also different expectations depending on gender. Women are more likely to be viewed as having strong people skills, putting them in roles that are ‘classified as female specialisms’. This can lead them to not getting experience across all the necessary sectors. Men are able to be assertive, where women can be viewed as aggressive. And very importantly, men’s views are often perceived to be more valuable. All this leads to an employment gap in which men are promoted into higher management positions, where women are kept in the middle-management, people-management positions.
Smashing the glass ceiling
So it seems that in order to break through the glass ceiling, and to receive the same pay, it might not just be enough to demand legal entitlement to the same. Women, we need to start taking on jobs in sectors we might not have thought of. We need to try to be assertive and confident in situations where it might not feel natural. And we need to try to push for experience across the company, not just in areas we feel comfortable.
If we want to make a change, and bridge this employment gap, we need to be proactive on every front.