Gender Equality in the Workplace


ZEW Economist Junior Professor Susanne Steffes in the #ZEWPodcast

Family-related leave, part-time work, lower-paid professions – there are many reasons why the gender wage gap exists. In the eleventh episode of the #ZEWPodcast ‘Wirtschaft · Forschung · Debatten’/‘Economy · Research · Debates’, Junior Professor Susanne Steffes, deputy head of the Research Department “Market Design” at ZEW Mannheim, explains the circumstances that lead to the gender wage gap and discusses ways to improve career opportunities for women.

According to Steffes, lower labour market participation of women can’t be the only reason that explains the existence of the gender wage gap. A comparison between women and men in similar positions shows that there is still a wage gap of six per cent, which researchers can’t explain so far. “One possible explanation could be the fact that women don’t negotiate their salaries as effectively as men and may not demand the salary they think is appropriate,” says Steffes. Women being discriminated by employers could be another possible explanation for the gender wage gap.

Wage gap between low-qualified and highly qualified women increases

Furthermore, it is necessary to distinguish between different qualification levels: “In many industrialised countries around the world we can observe that the wage gap between low-qualified and highly qualified women is widening, while the wage gap between women and men is getting smaller,” says the economist. It can be observed that after having children, highly qualified women tend to re-enter the workforce faster and are less likely to work part-time than low qualified women. Steffes adds, women who have a medium level of qualification have less access to further training than men. “We attribute this fact to lower labour market participation. As a result, the employer assumes they will be less available, which makes the employer’s investment into further qualification less beneficial,” explains Steffes.

Gender quota is perceived differently

Measures such as a gender quota, which aim to promote equal opportunities, are perceived differently by employees, Steffes explains in the podcast episode. “Those rejecting a gender quota argue the quota contradicts the merit principle, a standpoint that is primarily expressed by men. Women are more in favour of a quota as they consider it to promote equality,” Steffes explains. These differing points of view are particularly common among academics. “Especially in situations where a gender quota might be to the disadvantage of men, we see the strongest objection to a gender quota,” says Steffes.