ILO: Female Job-Seekers Get Penalized for Being Mothers

When it comes to getting a job, women lag far behind men.  The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports the work and pay gender gap remains wide, and only strong policies and laws that are implemented will change this situation for the better.  

The ILO has reached the conclusion in a new report – A Quantum Leap for Gender Equality: For a Better Future of Work for All – it is releasing in advance of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The ILO finds the needle on this has hardly moved over the past 27 years. It says 26 percent fewer women than men are likely to be employed.

It says this also extends to women in top jobs. ILO data show globally that just one-quarter of managers or leaders are women. It says women who make it to the top tend to be one year younger and better educated than their male counterparts.

Despite these qualifications, authors of the study say women do not draw the same salary for the same top job done by men. Globally, the study finds the gender wage gap remains at an average of 20 percent.  

Shauna Olney, chief of the ILO Gender, Equality and Diversity branch, says mothers of young children up to age 6 have the lowest chance of being employed.

“The motherhood employment penalty has increased over the past 10 years by 38 percent. So, again, something is not going right.  This is going in the wrong direction. There is also a motherhood leadership penalty as only 25 percent of managers with young children are women, and women’s share in managerial positions rises to 31 percent when they do not have children,” she said.

Olney told VOA the work done by women in leadership roles tends to be underrated. When it comes to job performance, she said women tend to be praised for their so-called soft skills, for their ability to communicate and relate well with people.

“I think the fact that we call them soft shows they are undervalued. They are not the hard skills, they are not the serious stuff. They are soft. So, why should we pay for them? Why should we give them any value? So I think there are a lot of biases and the evidence is very clear there in terms of how we evaluate what women and men do,” Olney said.

The report advocates certain measures to accelerate the pace of change in achieving gender parity. It calls for strong laws and policies that prohibit discrimination in the workplace and promote equality of treatment, opportunity and outcome. It recommends supporting women through work transitions and giving them a greater voice and representation in regard to labor matters.  


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