key topic

What is the gender divide?

The gender divide, or gender gap, describes the disparity between different genders in society, and in turn the labor market and business world, including inequality of opportunity, pay, progression, and benefits. Many women have worked full-time for decades, and in all OECD countries, young women are more likely to hold a tertiary (university) qualification than young men. Nevertheless, women are still under-represented in executive suites and board rooms as well as in higher levels of firm hierarchies, which could reflect a huge loss of talent and educational investment to both firms and economies.

With women still taking on more caring and housework responsibilities in the home than men, even in unprecedented times like during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers may need to focus on getting a more balanced gender division of careers within the family alongside other equal opportunity and affirmative action policies if they are to improve gender equality within the labor market.

For new academic research on this topic, see IZA's discussion papers on gender.

  • Gender differences in risk attitudes Updated

    Belief in the existence of gender differences in risk attitudes is stronger than the evidence supporting them

    Antonio Filippin, October 2022
    Many experimental studies and surveys have shown that women consistently display more risk-averse behavior than men when confronted with decisions involving risk. These differences in risk preferences, when combined with gender differences in other behavioral traits, such as fondness for competition, have been used to explain important phenomena in labor and financial markets. Recent evidence has challenged this consensus, however, finding gender differences in risk attitudes to be smaller than previously thought and showing greater variation of results depending on the method used to measure risk aversion.
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  • Gender differences in corporate hierarchies Updated

    How and why do the careers of men and women differ? What policies could reduce the differences?

    Antti Kauhanen, October 2022
    The gender wage gap is largely due to men and women holding different kinds of jobs. This job segregation is partly driven by gender differences in careers in corporate hierarchies. Research has shown that the careers of men and women begin to diverge immediately upon entry into the labor market and that subsequent career progress exacerbates the divergence. This divergence of career progress explains a large part of the gender wage gap. Understanding how and why the careers of men and women differ is necessary to design effective policies that can reduce the gender differences in hierarchies.
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  • The gender gap in time allocation

    Gender inequalities in daily time allocation may have detrimental effects on earnings and well-being

    Many countries experience gender differences, of various magnitudes, in the time devoted to paid work (e.g. market work time) and unpaid work (e.g. housework and childcare). Since household responsibilities influence the participation of women, especially mothers, in the labor market, the unequal sharing of unpaid work, with women bearing the brunt of housework and childcare, is one of the main drivers of gender inequality in the labor market. Understanding the factors behind these gender inequalities is crucial for constructing policies aimed at promoting gender equality and combating gender-based discrimination.
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  • Gender differences in competitiveness Updated

    To what extent can different attitudes toward competition for men and women explain the gender gap in labor markets?

    Mario Lackner, November 2021
    Differences in labor market outcomes for women and men are highly persistent. Apart from discrimination, one frequently mentioned explanation could be differences in the attitude toward competition for both genders. Abundant empirical evidence indicates that multiple influences shape attitudes toward competition during different periods of the life cycle. Gender differences in competitiveness will not only influence outcomes during working age, but also during early childhood education. In order to reduce the gender gap in educational and labor market outcomes, it is crucial to understand when and why gender gaps in competitiveness arise and to study their consequences.
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  • Equal pay legislation and the gender wage gap Updated

    Despite major efforts at equal pay legislation, gender pay inequality still exists—how can this be put right?

    Solomon W. Polachek, October 2019
    Despite equal pay legislation dating back 50 years, American women still earn 18% less than their male counterparts. In the UK, with its Equal Pay Act of 1970, and France, which legislated in 1972, the gap is 17% and 10% respectively, and in Australia it remains around 14%. Interestingly, the gender pay gap is relatively small for the young but increases as men and women grow older. Similarly, it is large when comparing married men and women, but smaller for singles. Just what can explain these wage patterns? And what can governments do to speed up wage convergence to close the gender pay gap? Clearly, the gender pay gap continues to be an important policy issue.
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  • Gender diversity in teams Updated

    Greater representation of women may better represent women’s preferences but may not help economic performance

    Ghazala Azmat, May 2019
    Women's representation on corporate boards, political committees, and other decision-making teams is increasing, this is in part because of legal mandates. Evidence on team dynamics and gender differences in preferences (for example, risk-taking behavior, taste for competition, prosocial behavior) shows how gender composition influences group decision-making and subsequent performance. This works through channels such as investment decisions, internal management, corporate governance, and social responsibility.
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