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Equal pay day

March 25, 2011

As Germany marks Equal Pay Day, a leading research institute has published data confirming what is widely known – that even in leadership positions, women in Germany earn considerably less than their male counterparts.

Male and female figures sitting atop stacks of coins
Female managers in Germany still earn a quarter lessImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Using figures from 2009, the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW) found that, at an average 3,700 euros, female executives' gross monthly income is about a quarter less than that of males in similar positions, who earn an average 4,900 euros a month.

The DIW also found that women also take home less pay in the form of bonuses and profit shares. With about 7,200 euros annually, female managers received a fifth less than their male colleagues. The same applies to vacation pay; women (1,065 euros) receive some 40 percent less than men (1,800 euros).

On another sour note, the federal statistics office Destatis has reported that no progress on closing the gap in gross pay was made in 2010. Instead, the wage gap stood at 23 percent, unchanged from 2009, official data showed.

More transparency on salaries

The DIW's Research Director for Gender Studies, Elke Holst, said that more transparency, for example, by publishing salaries would raise awareness about the extent of the pay gap and help to reduce its size.

Woman working at her computer while talking on the phone
Gender stereotypes are still largely to blame for the inequality, experts sayImage: picture alliance/dpa

Holst also suggested that gender stereotypes are still largely to blame. In career areas that are considered "feminine" and have a largely female workforce (70 percent), executives are typically paid less than in male-dominated careers. The DIW found that female executives in "feminine" careers earned an average of 2,800 euros a month in 2009, while women managers working in "masculine" careers earned an average of 4,300 euros.

Male executives in feminine careers, however, still outpaced their female colleagues, earning an average of 1500 euros more each month and up to nine-tenths of the salary earned by male managers in masculine careers.

"The pay gap is, in many ways, the result of gender stereotypes as well as social and cultural frameworks, but these are difficult to quantify," Holst said. "More women in leadership positions and, at the same time, a stronger mix of careers in the sense of having more women in typically masculine jobs and more men in feminine jobs, would be a step towards overcoming these stereotypes and achieving equal opportunity – also when it comes to salaries."

Overcoming gender stereotypes

Indeed, a recent study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology and conducted by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that much can be done to redress gender stereotypes simply by increasing the concentration of women in typically male-dominated arenas.

The Dutch study, which asked if common stereotypes about female characteristics keep the number of women in management roles low, concluded that age-old gender stereotypes are still a powerful factor.

After polling more than 3,000 employees of different companies, the researchers found the assumption that a "good" manager will possess masculine characteristics such as being strong, result-orientated and willing to take risks is still very prevalent.

But, as the study's lead author Janka Stoker told Deutsche Welle, "numbers help." She added that there even appears to be a crucial tipping point: 20 percent.

"Having experience with a female manager helps," Stoker said. "When men work in an organization with few women, they tend to have a very strong preference for male leaders and a low preference for feminine traits. That changes, however, when at least 20 percent of managers are female. After the 20 percent mark, we see changes in the preferences of male employees."

In Germany, politicians have so far resisted calls to impose a quota for women in executive positions. A meeting of German officials and representatives from the personnel departments of 30 major companies to discuss the issue of women in management is set for next week. If the results of the Dutch study are anything to go by, proponents of equal opportunity and equal pay will have to push for more than just verbal pledges of action.

"What you see if you just let percentages grow in a natural way is that (equal representation) will take ages," Stoker said. "The process of change can be helped just by increasing the numbers, but doing that on a voluntary basis is not leading to a lot of results."

Author: Deanne Corbett
Editor: John Blau