A report by Glassdoor Economic Research on gender equality has found that the UK continues to lag behind the European average when it comes to gender equality at work, coming in at 11th overall out of 18 countries. Best for overall gender equality in the workplace are Sweden, Norway and Finland; the biggest offenders are Greece, Italy and Ireland. It is clear from the report that the gender pay gap persists throughout Europe, it also remains the case that women are particularly under-represented in jobs at senior and board level, and that the cost of motherhood throughout Europe remains high. On a positive note, the report found that women are most-represented in professional and more technically-demanding jobs, and further education significantly increases a woman's probability of being employed.

The Glassdoor report, Which Countries in Europe Have the Best Gender Equality in the Workplace, compared 18 European countries and the United States on a number of gender equality measures, namely:

  • The gender gap in employment in respect of overall employment and for full-time employment;
  • The gender gap in employment by educational attainment;
  • The female-to-male ratio in labour force participation, in tertiary education enrolment, in professional and technical positions, and among legislators, senior officials, and managers;
  • The proportion of managers who are women, and the share of women on the boards of the largest listed companies; and
  • The "cost of motherhood" i.e. any increase in the gender pay gap as a result of women having children.

The key findings were:

  • The gender gap in employment persists: in all of the countries considered, there were fewer women than men in the workforce. The report found that the gender gap in employment is largest in Italy, Greece, the United States, and Ireland; and smallest in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. The UK is the sixth worst country in this respect, with 10 per cent more men in the workplace than women. The gender gap widens even further with regards to full-time equivalent employment (25 per cent in the case of the UK), which highlights the difference in hours worked by men and women.
  • Further education significantly increases a woman's probability of being employed: the report makes clear that the level of education women attain affects the gender gap in employment. For example, overall the gender gap for women who have gone through tertiary education (i.e. post-secondary education) is around half of what it is for those with less than upper secondary education. In the UK, the gender gap at tertiary education level is around 9 per cent, at upper secondary education level around 13 per cent, and at less than upper secondary education level around 17 per cent. Overall, the UK is the fourth worst offender in this respect. The front runners are Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
  • Women are most under-represented at senior level, and least under-represented in professional and more technically-demanding jobs:
    • Managers: fewer than 40 per cent of managers with decision-making responsibilities across Europe are women. The UK is doing particularly well in this respect with around 40 per cent of its managers being women, along with Sweden, Norway and Portugal. The worst performers are the Netherlands, Denmark and Italy at around 27 per cent.
    • Board level: fewer than 40 per cent of the board members of the largest listed companies in Europe are women. Whilst Lord Mervyn Davies's report on gender inequality in the boardroom in 2015 found that UK FTSE 100 companies have exceeded the target of having 25 per cent women on their boards, the UK only ranks sixth out of the 18 countries examined in this report, with around 26 per cent of board members of the UK's largest listed companies being women. This is 10 per cent less than Norway, which has the highest proportion of women on boards, most probably due to a legislation-based quota system introduced in 2006. The worst offenders are Estonia, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland at around 10 per cent.
    • Legislative and senior positions: in all countries examined, fewer than half of the legislative and senior positions are occupied by women.
    • The balance between male and female workers is at its best in professional and technically demanding positions such as health, teaching, legal, social and cultural professionals.
  • The cost of motherhood remains large: in the UK, the difference between what men get paid compared to women with at least one child is 14 per cent, placing it at 11th out of the 18 countries examined. The report found that the cost of motherhood to women in Ireland is particularly high with a pay gap of 31 per cent if they have a child. The cost of motherhood is lowest in Italy, Spain, and Belgium with a gap of 3 per cent or less. This is one area where Norway falls down whereby women with no children and who work full-time are paid around 3 percent less than men, compared with 21 percent less when they do have children.


The report makes for interesting, yet unsurprising, reading. It is clear that despite progress being made with more women entering the workplace and some improvements in gender equality in recent decades, much still needs to be done to close the gap. Sweden, Norway and Finland who were the big winners in the report demonstrate that it is possible for near equality to exist in the workplace – other countries should take note. It remains to be seen whether David Cameron's vow to "end the gender pay gap in a generation" will come to fruition. Currently, the UK has some work to do to attain parity in the workplace between men and women.

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