14th January 2022

The gender gap and how to close it

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021, at least one more generation of women will have to wait for gender equality. Dr. Eva Sierminska, Academic Economist at Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), has researched the gender gap in Luxembourg. She tells us more about the disbalance and provides useful tips for women when facing inequality.

1. How big is the gap between men and women and how do you measure it ?

There are many gaps between women and men: the pay gap, the pension gap, the wealth gap, the education gap or the gap in leadership positions. The most discussed in Europe is the pay gap. It is measured by looking at the differences between the average hourly earnings of working men and working women. The latest numbers indicate that in the EU women earn 14% less than men per hour. Yet, there are very large variations across countries.

2. What are the most reported pain points?

The main pain points for women vary across institutions, but the most common ones at work include having a supportive employer that would facilitate work-life balance and  would ensure equal pay.

Harassment is also at the top of the list, along with recognition, and being offered opportunities for advancement.

An important one is for the employer/supervisor not to assume a woman would not be intersected in a position or will most likely say no. Ask her!

3. In terms of gender equality, where does Luxembourg stand currently?

The gender pay gap in Luxembourg is one of the lowest in Europe. The latest numbers indicate it stands at 1.4%. Compare this to 20% in Germany, 15% in France or 6% in Belgium. Nevertheless, this masks a very unequal situation across industries. In Luxembourg, there are numerous actions promoting more equality for women and men in the labor market, but a lot of difficulties remain when it comes to promoting women to positions of responsibility.

4. Which industries attract negative attention in terms of the gender gap?

In the latest study, I worked on in 2019, where I examined the gender gap across sectors, we found very large gaps in the professional, scientific and technical activities (25%), financial & insurance activities (22%) and real estate sectors (17%). These are all sectors where a majority of men are employed. Yes, even in other service sectors, where women are more likely to be employed the gap was at 30%.

5. What can society do to close the gender gap?

I think society could do many things, but first we need to educate society about this. It’s not only the role of the school, university, but also the role of the family, firm, or government as well. Discussing these issues raises our awareness. At the moment, it seems that awareness is not present everywhere and even there is some awareness, we still don’t realize what are the consequences of gaps that exist within the society. One way to help with this is to have “gender observers.” These individuals present at school, at firms, or at banks – during the hiring process or when major decisions are made regarding society or employees would ask the right questions. How will this decision affect men, how will it affect women? Is there something we can do better to avoid the negative consequences of these decisions for women or men, for that matter.

6. What are your five useful tips for women who feel belittled at work?

I realise now that people who belittle either feel threatened themselves or lack respect for others. This realisation helped me not take such comments personally and treat them as evidence of what kind of person the commentator is rather than an indication of who I am. If I found myself with a woman or man for that matter that felt belittled I would tell them. First of all, other people’s comments do not define who we are. Very often commentators are projecting their own insecurities so follow the below tips.

5 tips for women who feel belittled at work

1. Believe in yourself, in your abilities, in your mission.

2. Forge alliances with people that support you and believe in your cause.

3. Be resilient – success is at the end of a long road.

4. Never give up – the road is very windy and there are all kinds of turns.

5. All you need to do is take one small step – this will already bring you close to your goal.

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