Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Economist's special report: Women and work

This month, The Economist published a special report on Women and work, looking at the state of the gender gap in economic opportunity, then and now. Several articles draw from research by WAPPP faculty, fellows and affiliates.

Included in the special report,

A few highlights:
Closing the gap, by Barbara Beck
"There is a new drive on to change mindsets further. Organisations ranging from the United Nations to the OECD and the World Bank are paying more attention to women. Some European countries have already introduced quotas to get more of them on company boards and others may follow. Every self-respecting firm, bank, consultancy and headhunter is launching initiatives, conducting studies and running conferences on how to make the most of female potential. Are these efforts still needed?"
The cashier and the carpenter: Men and women do different jobs for different pay
Remembering back on the Jane and Peter books printed in the 1960s: “When they were first published, families in most industrial countries were just like Peter’s and Jane’s. In America in the early 1970s more than half of all families with children consisted of a breadwinner husband, a stay-at-home wife and two or more kids; now only a fifth do. Instead there are lots of single-parent households, and even if couples live together they no longer necessarily marry. If they do, the wives are likely to go out to work, whether or not they have dependent children, and take only a short break for maternity. Life is too expensive for most families to be able to manage on one pay cheque. In most rich countries the dominant model now is the two-earner family, with both parents working full-time.”
A world of bluestockings: Women are now more highly educated than men, but they don’t get the jobs to match
While women have gained the lead in educational attainment, it has not translated into better job opportunities, finds WAPPP affiliate Martina Viarengo and colleagues. Women’s achievement of educational parity may enable more women to join the labor force, but many other factors—such as cultural attitudes and the availability of child care—also play a part in limiting their inroads in the workplace. “On its own, educational parity—even superiority—is not enough.”
Baby blues
"Finland’s gap between male and female employment rates is less than three percentage points, among the smallest in the world, and the vast majority of Finnish women have full-time jobs. Anne Brunila, executive vice-president of Fortum, an energy company, says that those who stay at home are often questioned about their choice. But working women’s lives are made easier by employers’ enlightened attitudes, excellent public child-care provision and generous family leave.

"Almost all rich countries provide paid maternity leave, averaging about 20 weeks. Many also offer paid parental leave, which may be available to either parent but is generally taken by the mother, so a number of countries, including Finland, now have separate “mommy and daddy quotas”, allocating periods of leave to each parent that cannot be transferred. Four out of five Finnish new fathers take a month off."
Too many suits: And not nearly enough skirts in the boardrooms
"A famous Harvard Business School case study by Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Jane Roessner, published in 2003, describes the efforts of the then boss of Deloitte, one of the big four accountancy firms, to stem the attrition among the firm’s senior women. They made up half the new intake at graduate level but only 10% of the candidates for partnership. Losing so many well-qualified people was costing the firm a great deal of money, so it commissioned research from Catalyst, a New York-based think-tank that works to increase the number of women in business, to find out why they were leaving. It got a big surprise..."

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