Women on the labour market Gender equality is still a myth

In recent years, there has been increasing talk of equality between men and women in the labour market. It might seem that the situation has improved significantly. Women have started to occupy prominent positions and entrepreneurs are organising all sorts of initiatives. Is it actually better? We discussed the situation of women in the labour market with Dr Ewa Rumińska-Zimny of the Women’s Congress Association and Karolina Andrian of the Share the Care Foundation in the Money.pl programme.

You can watch the interview here:

The Women’s Congress Association has prepared a report on the situation of women in the labour market after the coronavirus pandemic. Although there is much talk in the public space about the issue of equal treatment of men and women in the labour market, in practice the situation does not look good. The report shows that over the last 4 years the worse situation of women on the labour market has become more permanent, and in addition, as many as 78 per cent of employees have not encountered the concept of a wage gap and in 70 per cent of companies wage inequality is not discussed at all. What is the source of this problem?

– “Women work in inferior jobs, are paid less and have lower pensions. Together, this makes the situation of women bad. After covid, for example, more than 300,000 women left the labour market. They mainly leave the labour market, moving into inactivity, because they have to take care of their family, their children, their parents. These caring responsibilities take up a great deal of their time and they are unable to work,” explains Dr Ewa Rumińska-Zimny, vice-president of the Women’s Congress Association.

Persistent myths

Men often point to motherhood as the reason why women do not engage in work. This is claimed by as many as 1/5 of those surveyed. On top of this, one in ten men believe that women earn less due to less education, while there are more than 180 women for every 100 men with a university degree. This is one of the highest rates in the European Union.

Also, the fact that the government follows a patriarchal model does not help the fight for gender equality. Because of this, women are often discouraged from working, as the perception is that their place is in nurturing the home and therefore they earn less. Although there are laws that talk about equal pay, they cannot be enforced. The opportunity for change is seen in the EU Wage Gap Disclosure Directive.

– “In our country, there is a far-reaching attachment to the lack of disclosure of wages and salary levels in companies. Therefore, if we do not know how much the wage gap is in a particular company, we have rights, but we cannot claim them. This, among other things, is what the new European Union directive on wage gap disclosure is for and this is what entrepreneurs will soon face”, adds Dr Ewa Rumińska-Zimny, vice-president of the Women’s Congress Association.

Work-life balance

Wage inequality is not the only issue facing women. Another is the difficulty of combining professional duties with parenthood, as both areas are very demanding and absorbing. Here, too, the European Union is trying to help by introducing a work-life balance directive. This assumes greater involvement of men in caring responsibilities, which will allow to equalise the opportunities for women on the labour market. Although men were allowed to take parental leave in 2013, only about 1 percent of men take it each year.

– “By implementing non-transferable leave for fathers, i.e. leave that cannot be transferred to the woman, the Directive will encourage fathers to take it. However, the legislator, in setting the payment for this leave at 70 per cent, has not used the full potential of this solution. This gratuity could have been higher – we argued for a level of 81.5% or even 100%. This level of payment would allow more families in Poland to benefit from this solution. This is an opportunity for employers to make up this 30 per cent pay gap to bridge the financial barrier and enable their father-employees to take this amount of leave. “This is one way to build parental equality in your organisation”, explains Karolina Andrian, president of the Share the Care Foundation.

Responsible business

Both interviewees point out that the ball is in the court of employers, who do not have to wait for the introduction of pro-equality solutions to be mandated by legislation. Business can and should meet the needs of employees (in this case, primarily female employees) and take responsibility for actually equalising opportunities for women and men in the labour market. The same is true for employers outside the commercial sector – for example in administration or NGOs. This is why initiatives such as “Equilibrium. A competition for the pro-women company of the year” are emerging, organised by the Kulczyk Foundation, the Women’s Congress and the Lewiatan Confederation. By showcasing good practice in five areas of company operations (equality policies and mechanisms, development and training, work-home balance, pay and health), the competition organisers aim to promote management patterns based on an equal opportunities philosophy. The data show that there is still a great deal of work to be done in each of these areas, which is why an active company policy in each area is necessary to equalise the opportunities for women and men in the labour market. There is more at stake in the competition than just prizes and prestige. Above all, it is an opportunity to shape better labour standards. Read more on the competition page: https://rownowaga.org.pl/


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