How would you feel if, after interviewing for a new job, your prospective boss called you up and said: “Congratulations! The position is yours. As part of your contract, we expect you to work unpaid from the 10th of November to the 31st of December each year. When can you start?”
While this might seem like a joke, the gender pay gap means that for the 15,075,000 employed women in the UK, it is simply their reality. On average, a woman in the UK earns 9% less than a man doing the same job and around Europe there are similar disparities.
What we did
From concerns over childcare, to career progression and flexibility, we wanted to find out what women really value in the workplace, and if EU countries are giving them what they deserve.
To find out if their needs were being met, we analysed data from the European Union and Eurostat to allow us to compare each country.
EU’s best and worst
We created a heatmap displaying the disparity between men and women’s pay in countries across Europe. See the best and the worst below:
5.Slovenia: 8.1 %
1.Czech Republic: 22.5%
4.United Kingdom: 20.8%
Sadly, both the UK and Germany feature in the bottom 5 European countries for the gender pay gap, meaning women in both countries are paid more than 20% less than their male colleagues. France did better, but still only managed a ranking of 14th amongst its EU peers, with a pay gap of 15.8% between men and women.
The most recent annual report by the World Economic Forum predicted that, at the current rate of change, it will take another 100 years to close the gender pay gap.
Despite this prediction, of the French female employees we surveyed, 1 in 3 said they thought that the gender pay gap would never close. 1 in 5 of their German peers shared their pessimism.
While change is as much a responsibility for government as employers, 1 in 3 German employees and 1 in 4 in France said that they feel their current employer is not doing enough to eradicate wage inequalities between men and women.
Countries with the highest salaries for women
UK ranks towards the middle (12th) of the list of EU28
countries in terms of average monthly earnings for women*. This
reflects an average monthly income of 2,242 PPS (purchasing power standards),
which is lower than EU28’s average of 2,266 PPS.
On a list of eight suggested improvements in the workplace, 50% of the
German and French women we surveyed chose “a higher salary” as the most
Furthermore, 42% of German female employees and 34% of French female
employees said that being paid less than male colleagues was the biggest
challenge they faced at work.
the best career opportunities for women
While the UK ranks 1st for career opportunities, with almost half (44%) of top management office chairs occupied by women, it’s a different story in France and Germany. In France only 17% of top management positions are staffed by women placing it 24th of 28. Germany ranks only slightly better in 23rd, with 17.3% of its managers and CEOs being women.
Women in these countries recognise the problem too. 1 in 4 female employees in France said that they feel they face limited career opportunities compared to their male colleagues. The picture was the same in Germany.
While career progression for women is a good barometer of an inclusive workplace, there are more blatant and worrying challenges for working women. In the UK, half of female HR directors and decision-makers think their workplace is sexist and that can manifest itself in many ways.
We asked female employees in France and Germany whether they had ever been asked illegal questions during a job interview. These spanned from family plans to family status, to family status, to political views, to sexual orientation and health records.
Unfortunately, 57.80% of the French said they had been asked at least one of these questions at one point. 39% said they had been asked about their future plans on marriage and having children, with 38% being questioned on their spouse’s employment.
53% of the German women admitted to being asked inappropriate questions at interviews. 10% said they had been asked about personal health information and 11% said they were quizzed about their country of origin.
While the number of working mothers with dependent children in the UK has risen quite dramatically in the past two decades, up to 4.9 million from 3.7 million in 1996, there are still major challenges for these women when they return to work.
3 in 4 mothers in the UK have had a negative or discriminatory experience in the workplace during pregnancy, maternity leave or after returning from maternity leave. Amongst the experiences, a worrying 10% had been discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.
When asked, 1 in 4 German and French employed mothers said that becoming a mother has had a negative impact on their career. The clear majority of working mothers in both countries, 69% in France and 74% in Germany, said they have had to make big changes to their role.
In France, 48% have had to go part-time and 24% had to change their job or role. In Germany, the picture was even more extreme, with 69% of women going part-time after having a child and 15% being forced to change career.
Balancing a career and family life came at the top of the list of challenges for French women (36%). For the Germans this came second (37%), just below their concern with lower salaries (42%).
Stress can affect us all at work, but for women the problem can be made worse by factors out of their control. Women in the UK are much more likely to suffer from stress at work than their male counterparts. One contributing factor to this could be that 54% of British women admitted to working at high speed or to tight deadlines.
Many of the factors we’ve listed above are undoubted contributors to this as well, but there’s also evidence that women often become the victim of stereotyping in the workplace, making their jobs harder and increasing stress levels.
Of those we surveyed, 1 in 10 of French women named working in a less stressful work environment as a priority, with the same level of female German employees craving the same.
As life expectancies have grown in recent years, retirement ages all around Europe have also started to creep up. By 2020 the retirement age in the UK will have risen to 67 and there’s more bad news. A recent study revealed that UK retirees will be worse off than any of the other countries studied due to a particularly low state pension and the cost of residential care.
When asked about their retirement, 7% of French and German respondents said a lower retirement age was their biggest priority for change at work. In France, the earliest you can retire as a woman is 60, but in Germany it’s 65.
Understandably, the older our survey respondents were the more important a factor this became. 1 in 5 German and French female employees over 55 mentioned this as the improvement they would most like to benefit from, compared to only 4% and 3% of German and French millennials (18-34) respectively.
Do you notice the gender pay gap? Is enough being done to help women thrive in the workplace? Share your views with us on Twitter and Facebook.