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EU Perceptions of Gender Gap: Surprising Survey Results

In mid-February, the European Parliament conducted a Flash survey among EU citizens designed to determine how people saw the economic crisis affecting the gender gap.  The full report is here:  Eurobarometer – Gender inequalities – Feb 2013.

Overall, EU citizens thought the crisis was worsening the gender gap, especially by widening the pay gap between men and women and by making it harder for women to balance work and life.  Perhaps this is not very surprising.  However, the differences between the way women and men saw the overall challenge of gender inequality was surprising, at least to me.

Perhaps the biggest shock came when respondents were asked what they thought European employers considered most when hiring.  This question was asked twice:  once for how respondents thought employers evaluated men, then how they thought employers evaluated women.  Amazingly, EU citizens believe that employers value experience (40%),  training (38%),  and mobility (31%) when the applicant is male, but that they are more likely to consider whether she has children (40%), her working hours flexibility (38%), and her appearance (31%) if the applicant is female.

Then, when asked what the most important aspects of gender inequality were, men and women gave similar answers, but with subtle and meaningful divergences.

Importantly, both men and women saw the pay gap as the biggest problem.  This finding was heartening to me because I have the impression that, in the past, popular opinion has played down the importance of compensation.  Perhaps they feel it is fair to pay women less or maybe they think women don’t care that much about money. Or maybe they are too complacent to realize how big the pay gap is and what a boon it would be for families if we simply made employers pay women fairly.  Whatever the reason has been, I am glad to see it hitting the public consciousness that the pay gap is a big deal.

Notice, however, that there were only two places where men scored higher than women. One was the importance of trafficking and prostitution.  The other was giving the response that, apparently, there are no gender equality issues or that none of the items in the list were a problem (None=13% for men).

Also of interest was that the biggest gap between men and women was their rating of the importance of unequal work in the home, with, of course, the women thinking that was a much bigger problem than the men.

This gives you some sense of what we are up against, I think.


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