Kicking off the Women in Economics Discussion Series in Berlin

On 19 November 2019, we invited individuals interested in gender and economics to join us at the premises of NERA Economic Consulting in Berlin for the 1st Edition of the Women in Economics Discussion Series. The event featured three keynote speakers presenting on three themes surrounding gender in the field of economics and more generally in the professional world. 

WiE Chair Virginia Sondergeld presented our mission, main activities and the role of such initiatives can play in supporting gender inclusion in professional contexts. Dominik Hübler, Associate Director in NERA’s Global Energy, Environment, Communications & Infrastructure Practice department, shared some of his own views and experiences on “part-time work as a career obstacle in consulting?”. Finally, Katharina Wrohlich presented on “Female Managers and Gender Biases among Employees – A Research Agenda” .Head of the Gender Economics Research Group at DIW Berlin, she discussed gender gaps in the labour market and paths towards their reduction through increased representation of women in leadership roles. 

The audience was comprised of young professionals from the academic, consulting and the public sector fields. An open discussion followed the three presentations, providing an opportunity for the audience to question the presenters and share their experiences from their respective fields of work.

An initiative for gender and diversity in economics

Recent decades have seen significant improvements in women’s workplace representation. Information campaigns, feminist associations, employment quotas and a rising number of women role models all contribute to an improved gender balance in professional workplaces.

Despite this progress, we remain far from achieving balanced gender representation in the professional world. A significant contributor to the reform slowdown is the emergence of diversity fatigue and inclusion backlash among many companies trying to implement more gender inclusion and diversity in their teams. At WiE we feel that, as a society, we need to find a way to redefine popular gender discourse if we wish to deliver more inclusion.

In her presentation, Virginia introduced The Women in Economics Initiative and its vision to advance gender equality in the field of economics. She highlighted the role of initiatives as a means of synchronising efforts to redefine popular gender discourse by involving more people in the gender discussion as well as communicating and questioning how more inclusive environments can look. Virginia also discussed women’s existing contributions to economics, highlighted the current presence of women economists in leadership positions, and called for a more inclusive dialogue to understand, shape and deliver more gender inclusion and diversity in the field of economics today

Part-time employment, not part-time opportunities!

Part-time jobs can assist people to stay in paid work while raising children. However, accepting a part-time job can also slow one’s career progression, as often part-time jobs are associated with part-time access to opportunities

Despite the recent surge of part time employment in many OECD countries,2018  data based on the OECD average shows that women are employed in flexible work arrangements 2.7 times more often than men.

Total part-time employment rate across OECD countries in 2018
(Left hand side in % of employment, Right hand side in %)

Men and women in part-time employment across OECD countries in 2018
(in % of employment)

Source: OECD Labour Market Statistics: Full-time part-time employment – common definition: incidence

In his presentation, Dominik discussed his own experiences with part-time employment in the economic consulting profession. He stressed the value of being in a workplace that allows the flexibility of part-time work and shared some ideas for making it work as smoothly as possible.

Dominik shared his experience with regard to the coordination and the need for prioritisation that is required and the opportunities that this can bring to everyone in the team (including more responsibility and client exposure for more junior team mates). He also stressed the importance of finding role models of all genders who have experience in part-time employment and the value of maintaining (and communicating to others) a career progression plan. Finally, and most importantly he stressed the importance of enjoying the extra time off work that part-time work affords you.

The perceived fairness of gender pay gap

Women in OECD countries still receive on average lower wages than men do. According to OECD estimates, the gender pay gap is 13.1% across OECD countries. It has stayed more or less constant in recent years, down from 14.4% in 2010, but varies greatly across age groups, economic activities and types of employment (e.g. full-time vs. part time).

2018 gender wage gap percentages across OECD countries
(in %, employees 2018 or latest available)

Source: OECD Earnings: Gross earnings: decile ratios

Katharina presented the DIW Women Executives Barometer and discussed her recent work on the gender pay gap in Germany. Katharina stressed that the size of the average pay gap differs with age and profession, and so do perceptions relating to how large the gender pay gap ought to be. 

Katharina showed that the pay gap is relatively small up to 30 years of age, prior to the average age of the first childbirth. After that, both career growth and the per hour wage of women and men start to diverge. Recent studies (see DIW and CESifo working papers) suggest that a part of the reason that women earn less is that they have lower wage growth expectation than men. 

Katharina shared with the audience that her current research suggests that both men and women tend to think that lower wages for women are fair. However, this result does not hold for all age groups and all types of employment. Younger respondents (up to 30 years of age) present no bias. As age increases, so does the perception of a fair pay gap to around 4%for individuals above 40 years of age

Katharina concluded her presentation with a teaser of her current work, where she investigates the impact of having worked with a female manager on the individual’s assessment of a fair gender pay gap. . Katharina called for more women role models, claiming that we need more women in traditionally male occupations and managerial positions, and more men in typically female related jobs, including care work.   

WiE would like to thank our presenters and all participants for making this night a stimulating, enriching kick-off to the WiE Discussion Series. As always, we invite people with expertise or interest in this field to share their work and ideas with us. Comment below or reach us via email to express your interest in hosting an event, contributing a written piece or featuring in the upcoming WiE podcast. 

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