Less money, same problems: the gender wage gap

Why are women still making less than their male counterparts?

Last week our Berlin correspondent, Siobhan Dowling, wrote about the gender wage gap in the European Union.

Germany has the highest disparity between what men and women earn for the same work — about three months. In other words, a woman would have to work for nearly 15 months to earn what a man earns in 12.

That works out to about 21.6 percent less than what a man earns. By comparison, the gap in the US is slightly lower, at 20 percent. 

There are lots of reasons for this. In Germany, there's the fact that women who work while raising children are stigmatized. Elsewhere, the "mommy-track" can keep women of the running for top slots. Then there's disparities in education and a tendancy for more women to pursue part-time work.

In the EU, the new report, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has prompted discussions about whether to enforce a gender quota, which would require companies to hire more women in top-ranking positions. 

This debate in Der Speigel from European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, 60, and German Family Minister Kristina Schröder, 34, lays out clearly the pros and cons of such a move. Schroder is against a quota, and Reding is for it. It's worth a read in full, in part because these usually aren't discussions that include women.

What's most interesting is that ultimately they both agree on one thing, which Schroder says best:

"It isn't as if we women were merely victims of circumstance and had no minds of our own. We don't want pity, and we don't want special treatment. We just want equal opportunities."

Both women, however, glossed over the elephant in the room. Discrimination against women for being women is something that some people like to assume is a thing of the past, in the way that some Americans like to talk about the US as being post-racial. It's not. 

This week the Bundesbank, Germany's Central Bank, came out with a survey that found that having women in boardrooms leads to higher risk-taking

The Financial Times quoted the report: “If group members come from heterogeneous backgrounds in terms of experience and values, this might increase the potential for conflict inside the group and hinder decision-making.” 

In other words, women break up the clubhouse atmosphere that leads to all the great decision-making that happens out there.

Good thing that's not a problem in an estimated 90 percent of the world's boardrooms.

If women were in charge, they might have sparked a massive debt crisis that brought the world to its knees.