Punishment for motherhood. This is how Polish women are treated on the labour

They prevail as unemployed, earn on average 14.7 per cent less than men and are less likely to hold managerial positions. Experts explain that women in Poland are “punished for motherhood”, despite the widespread changes.

“Nearly half of women have experienced or had the chance to observe ‘punishment for motherhood’ in their environment”, claims Łukasz Marciniak, sales director at eRecruiter, in an interview with money.pl, based on a study by Pracuj.pl. This often translates into women’s exclusion from the labour market, but not only that – cultural patterns and the “traditional family model” are often to blame.

The situation of women in the Polish labour market.

According to the Polish Economic Institute, there is currently a relatively small disproportion of women in managerial positions across the European Union. Women in Poland account for 43 percent of those in such positions, while the EU average is 35 percent.

According to Eurostat data, the gender pay gap was 4.5 per cent in Poland in 2021. The data differs from those collected by the Central Statistical Office (CSO). It turns out that, according to the CSO, in October 2020, the gross monthly salary for men was 14.7 per cent higher than the average monthly salary for women. The biggest differences were shown in such occupational groups as public officials, senior officials and managers, and specialists.

For example, an economic and management specialist earned an average gross salary of PLN 8210.17 during the period in question, while a female specialist earned as little as PLN 6533.01. Large discrepancies were also shown in the case of salespeople, with men receiving on average PLN 4537.06 and women PLN 3517.41 gross.

In addition, women prevail in the registers of labour offices as long-term unemployed.

– “The pandemic has caused many women to leave the labour market, and some still have not returned. A common reason is the need to take care of the home and family, as well as giving up one’s professional life due to wage inequality. The costs that arise when wanting to re-enter the labour market, such as the need to hire childcare, often condition the decision to return to work or stay at home,” Anna Tietianiec, labour market expert and manager at the recruitment company Manpower, tells us.

Manifestations of discrimination

Although many positive changes can be observed in the market, it still happens – for example, during the recruitment process – that women are discriminated.

– “In a modern society, it should no longer be the case that mothers involved in these processes are judged less favourably than their childless competitors for a position and less favourably than men involved in the same recruitment process. Unfortunately, changing the mindset of employers in this regard often takes time. Regulations such as the one that amended the Polish Labour Code in April – introducing a new, longer parental leave for fathers – are the best way to initiate this change, says Marciniak in an interview with money.pl.

Artur Skiba, president of Antal, on the other hand, cites the results of an experiment conducted by the Polish Economic Institute in cooperation with his company, “Mum returns to work – behavioural barriers and directions of support” from 2023, which did not show discrimination at the stage of CV selection. – “However, an additional qualitative study indicated various manifestations of discrimination against mothers at later stages of recruitment and in the workplace after employment”, says the president of Antal in an interview with money.pl.

He adds that as manifestations of unequal treatment, women cited an inferior attitude on the part of the employer, resulting from the belief that they would not perform as well as others in their jobs, or being entrusted with less interesting or challenging tasks.

Women are leaving their jobs

As already mentioned, after the pandemic, many women have not returned to the labour market, and they also prevail in the registers of labour offices. At the end of 2022, the number of registered unemployed women was 436,900, compared to 376,300 men.

Anna Goreń, PR and CSR specialist at Pracuj.pl, says that although her company’s research has largely positive findings, which may indicate that change for the better will be increasingly dynamic on the Polish labour market, women still face significant challenges.

– “One of the biggest, according to Pracuj.pl respondents, is reconciling the role of mother and employee. Today’s women, unfortunately, still have to make difficult choices between professional development and fulfilling the responsibilities of raising their children. This problem is described as a challenge by as many as 83 percent of the women surveyed”, Goreń explains in an interview with money.pl.

Changes are needed

Labour market expert Anna Tietianiec tells us that one of the key expectations of women in the labour market is the employer’s approach to flexibility. These include the ability to work remotely or to independently choose the start and end times of the workday.

– “This makes it much easier to find work-life harmony. Also key here is the issue of equal pay, which continues to be a challenge in many organisations in Poland. In addition to equality regardless of gender, age or race, women value a sense of stability. They are more likely to opt for a position that does not involve working outside standard hours and one that does not require frequent business travel, the expert comments.

Goreń of Pracuj.pl adds that, according to a recent survey, Polish women recognise that they are in a much better professional position, with 62 per cent declaring that in their companies representatives of both sexes have equal opportunities for promotions and raises.

– “Among the measures aimed at reversing the situation and creating equal opportunities for women and men on the labour market, one can mention measures such as the work-life balance directive introduced in April, which affects the Polish Labour Code. It aims, among other things, to even out inequalities between men and women in the labour market. It is usually the responsibility of women to care for their children during the first period of their lives, which leads to career interruptions and can result in a more difficult return to professional reality. In some cases, they even decide to withdraw from professional activity,” she says in an interview with money.pl.

Skiba from Antal, on the other hand, adds that it is essential to make real changes that confirm an appreciation of diversity.

– “How to accomplish this? Among other things, by creating a safe environment in organisations that gives women the opportunity to share experiences, where they will gain confidence in their competences, as well as the courage to apply for their dream positions. Vocational training aimed at mothers and caregivers is one of the tools to facilitate a return to the labour market”, he mentions.

He adds that among the solutions to improve the situation of women in the labour market, including their re-entry into employment, the previously mentioned flexible working hours are mentioned, which allow for a more efficient combination of childcare and work-related logistics.

You can hear more about employers who equalise the situation of women on the labour market in the recently announced competition “Equilibrium. The Pro-Women’s Company of the Year”. The goal of the competition is to identify leaders among employers who work to equalise opportunities for women and men in the workplace.


Weronika Szkwarek | money.pl