Educational and occupational segregation

It is sad to admit that European women still get paid less than men and continue to take up different types of job. The situation throughout Europe is still complicated and needs more actions and efforts to be overcome. In fact, despite all efforts and a slightly improvement since 2006, Europe has still to work to achieve gender equality on the labour market.

Gender inequalities marked education and training performances, as european indicators have measured. In 2013, 10.2 % of young women were earl school leavers compared to 13.6 % of young men. The tertiary achievement rate reached 41.2 % among women and 32.7 % among men. Moreover, 15-year-old girls outperform boys in reading. During adulthood, women´ s participation in lifelong learning is more frequent than men. However, this relative advantage of women graduates does not fully“translate” into an advantage in the labour market, even if women’s participation in tertiary education and in lifelong learning exceeds that of men in most Member States. As for men, the likelihood of working for women increases with higher educational attainment, but the gender gap in employment remains significant even at the highest levels of educational attainment (73.4 % for women with a tertiary degree, 77.7 % for men).

The tendency for women and men to enter different types of work- the so called “occupational gender segregation”, is also due  to gender differences in education and training. Fields of study such as the arts, the humanities, health and teaching, more linked to traditional female roles, over-represent women. On the other hand, engineering, science and mathematics under-represent them. Only 29% of every female graduates have a computing-related degree and only 4% go on to work directly in ICT. Moreover, gender inequalities in science and in research still remain the norm, with 59 % of women being new graduates, but only 46 % of them being PhD degree holders, 33 % being researchers, and only 20 % being the highest academic staff and 11 % being the heads of universities or assimilated institutions. Also, there are strong gender imbalances in the teaching profession, with women greatly overrepresented in the teaching force but underrepresented in management positions, including in higher education.

As a result of the persistence of this segregation in education and occupations, gender stereotypes reinforce, facilitate the undervaluation of women’s work and feed bottlenecks on the labour market. To fight this situation, a campaign was launched by the Commission in March 2014. It aims at encouraging young people, in particular women, to take up ICT-related careers. The Commission, under the Entrepreneurship Action Plan, has supported then also action to increase access to funding, educational, mentoring and business networking opportunities for women who want to start, run and grow a business. In fact, only 30 % of new start-ups in Europe are established by women. Important is the monitoring action of the Commission over the correct application and enforcement of existing EU equal pay legislation. In March 2014, it adopted Recommendation , suggesting concrete measures for improving pay transparency. Since 2012, a European Equal Pay Day has been established to raise public awareness of the size and persistence of the gender pay gap. In 2014, EUR 2.5 million were provided to fund eight transnational projects aimed at understanding and reducing the gap.

I do really hope that this goals, even if slowly, will be achieved within a relatively short and reasonable period. Now I am 21. I know it is hard to change persistent situations and, harder is trying to change people´s mind. However, I am positive, since progress have been done, laws have been drafted and politicians and Institutions seem truly ready to do more.


One response to “Educational and occupational segregation

  1. “I know it is hard to change persistent situations and, harder is trying to change people´s mind.”

    I think this is a central point in the whole debate. True Equity, as I understand it, can only exist when people want it and believe in it, not if it is enforced by laws. Even if legislation leads to a 50/50 distribution, all that is achieved is equity in numbers not nessecary gender equity as a prevalent concept in the minds of the people.
    That in mind, I’m not arguing that politicians shouldn’t try to interfer and reduce the gender gap. I think that programs and legislation can have a part in leading to a change in the perception of gender equity and the corresponding values, but I don’t think it’s enough.
    The problem is, I don’t have any other solution to offer either.
    On the bright side it should be noted that the attitudes towards the gender gap have significantly changed over the last decades. I’ll try to tackle the topic of change in values and attitudes over time in one of my next blog posts.


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