Hit the pause button and rewind to a world grappling with the COVID-19, not that long ago. The world of work, like virtually all aspects of our daily lives, is bearing the brunt of the pandemic, with a particular emphasis on female-dominated sectors of the economy. Millions of women across the globe are forced to put their activity on hold and handle child care duties for instance — at least considerable more than their male counterparts.
Fast forward a bit, to 2021: The economy is starting back up, but more than a million women are still unemployed. Some economists feared the pandemic might even wipe out a generation of progress for working women.
Back to the present day, women are coming back to the workforce in record numbers. According to Insider, 77.8% of women between the ages of 25 and 54 are in the labor force, surpassing the previous peak in 2000.
But along with these record numbers comes a lot of persisting injustices for women in the world of work. Has the pandemic taught us nothing, or is progress in sight? This edition of Work → In Progress takes a closer look at the reality women face every day in the world of work.
Gender inequality still very much a thing
Despite diversity being valued and enshrined in French law, studies cited by French business daily Les Echos reveal that gender inequality in the workplace is far from over. Women may have broken the glass ceiling, but they still face adversity while carrying out their responsibilities. Deeply rooted gender biases — whether conscious or not — make life particularly difficult for women in positions of power, leading to their undermining, exclusion or even resignation.
Supreme Court rules against working mothers
Spain’s Supreme Court has concluded that it is not discriminatory to deny a working mother a timetable change, reports Spanish newspaper Cinco Dias. This applies as long as the decision is not made based on gender-related factors. The ruling came after a teleoperator asked to change her working hours to be able to look after her daughter. While her employer was obliged to consider the timetable change, the Supreme Court ruled that not accommodating her wishes did not constitute discrimination.
Behold the “Glass Wall” holding female freelancers back
As women turn to freelance in an attempt to avoid the corporate world’s Glass Ceiling, they are confronted with another problem: the Glass Wall. The Harvard Business Review explains that horizontal role expansion’s are perceived more negatively in women. Studies showed that when women, particularly in creative fields, attempt to grow their careers, they hit the Glass Wall effect; perceived as having less agency, less competence, and less commitment to their careers than their male counterparts. The article then goes on to suggest some ways individuals can break through the glass, as well as how organizations can take responsibility for hiring bias for a more equal working environment.
Stat du jour
As Spanish daily El Mundo reports, a new study has found that the energy transition leaves women behind in the workplace, as it shows that the female share of the labor market associated with clean energy does not exceed 30% in any country in Europe. The Naturgy Foundation and the Institute for the Fair Transition (ITJ) estimates that, despite the green sector having generated more than two million jobs throughout the European Union, and more than 152,000 in Spain, by March 2022 only 18.2% of posts in Spain’s green energy sector were filled by women.
"Women need women"
German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung focuses on how women's networks have been implemented in many work fields in the Stuttgart region, with the goal to empower each other and advance in their own career. The Women's Network Forum gives women the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas regarding work as the professional world has long been dominated by men, but also to share their experience in the workplace. The idea of this network is to fight the still existing myth about women and the lack of visibility for women workers.
The purpose of the initiative, according to founder Bettina Kies-Hartmann, is to help women to empower, bring support and help them reach role models in the workplace. As women still have a unique situation in the workplace, Kies-Hartmann wanted to create a place where women could enrich each others — even though, as she explains, networking is not only about women and should also include men.
WEF portraits of gender equity at work
“Women in the workplace need not only equality, but also equity” writes the Chinese edition of the World Economic Forum. Gender equity is crucial for women's well-being at work. To achieve this, systemic changes and equity-based solutions are necessary. Women rise up to leadership positions in companies where more women are represented. Today, more than ever, women are leaving companies where they are not appreciated or treated fairly, which especially occurs in fields where women are underrepresented, such as STEM. The World Economic Forum interviewed young global leaders to discuss how to help women advance in their careers through equity and systemic change:
- Mitsuru Claire Chino, board member of ITOCHU, believes that women should be evaluated on their ability to work, not on how long they have (or have not) been in the office. So she’s implemented customizable scheduling and offers numerous benefits to her employees.
- Mia Perdomo, co-founder and CEO of Aequales, found that understanding employees and differentiating their needs creates equity. She collects relevant data about different social groups and identities in her organization and their particular needs, rather than “presuming that our needs are everyone else's”.
- Xiaoxuan Zhu, divisional leader at the Science and Technology Center, Ministry of Science and Technology, China, believes in fulfilling the extrinsic and intrinsic needs of her female employees through work-life balance and strengthening their self-identity.
“Chief of navigation on non navigable waterways”, you say? A report from Belgian TV station RTBF has gone viral in recent weeks for attributing this odd-sounding job description to an interviewee, Emmanuel Gennart, employed by the Wallonia region. But as RTBF explained afterwards, Gennart is not responsible for navigation, but for “traffic” instead — which apparently makes all the difference: While bigger boats are prohibited on "non-navigable" waterways, other crafts such as kayaks are allowed. Gennart, who admits he has no official title, concluded: "They could call me Mister Kayak."