The research project has aimed at investigating the ways in which women and men are unequally placed in the labor market. We have studied the mechanisms that contribute to different educational choices among boys and girls, and what happens in the transition from education to work. Once men and women have entered the labor market, there are processes at play that contribute further to gender gaps in career development and wages. We have studied how different welfare state arrangements affect these developments through comparing Norway with other countries.
The project has been carried out by a multidisciplinary research group, with sociologists, economists and political scientists. The team has consisted of researchers from the Institute for Social Research in collaboration with the University of Oslo, Boston University, Wellesley College, UC San Diego and the University of Basel. Findings from the project have been published in a number of journal articles, book chapters, and reports, and have been disseminated through conferences, seminars and media contributions.
The following is a brief summary of some of our main findings.
1. High female labor force participation is associated with lower levels of gender segregation in the labor market. Contrary to the so-called gender equality paradox, we find that high female labor force participation over time is associated with a reduction in gender segregation in the labor market. Norway is today among the countries with the lowest levels of gender segregation in Europe.
2. Women in management positions rarely experience discrimination and negative attitudes, but the conditions for women's competition for top positions are still unequal to men's. Our study of data from over 400 of the largest companies in Norway and the US in 2016 showed that the share of female CEOs (about 7 percent) and the share of women in top management are very similar across the two countries. At the same time, the share of women in line management positions with profit and loss responsibility is much higher in the US, and experience in these positions is typically needed to qualify for CEO. In Norway, the share of women on boards are considerably higher, which is related to the Norwegian law on gender quotas on corporate boards.
3. Studies of Norwegian registry data show that occupational gender segregation increases over the life course. Gender segregation in the labor market goes up among employees aged 30 and continues to rise with age. However, gender segregation also decreases for each generation when we compare employees in the same age brackets over time.
4. Our studies of gender differences in pay show that the gender gap in wages increases the first years after completed education and that this is partly due to men more often changing jobs to better paid positions, industries and workplaces. In addition, there are gender differences in pay increases within workplaces.
5. In a survey experiment, pupils in 10th grade were presented with short texts describing fictive persons with boys' names or girls' names, and were asked to recommend different educational programs in upper secondary school to the persons in the texts. The persons in the texts were identical except for the name. We found that the pupils were most inclined to recommend the general college preparatory study program. With regard to vocational education, neither "girls" nor "boys" in the texts were recommended female dominated vocational educational tracks. There was some variation among pupils whose parents had higher education and those who did not, and among the pupils with different attitudes towards whether boys and girls are born different with consequences for occupational choices. But none of these groups of students would recommend female dominated vocational tracks.
6. In Norway today, men are more likely to choose gender atypical studies in higher education than women. Among graduates from lower secondary school in 2008 who entered higher education within five years, a much higher share of men chose female dominated studies in higher education (15 percent) than women who chose male dominated studies (4 percent). One reason for this pattern is that women are in majority in higher education and there are relatively few studies that are still male dominated, while many of the largest study programs in higher education are female dominated.
Streaming of final conference (in English): https://youtu.be/5kns0xCGsHY?list=UUPLAYER_Samfunnsforskning
Main findings from the project are summarized in a brief report available here (in Norwegian):
Vi opplever at prosjektet har hatt betydning for hvordan det kjønnsdelte arbeidsmarkedet snakkes om og forstås i den norske offentligheten. Vi har formidlet resultatene til barnehageansatte, rådgivere i skolen, offentlig forvaltning, næringslivet, arbeidslivets parter og til forskerfellesskapet. Det er stor interesse for våre resultater, og vi har også bidratt med kunnskap i det offentlige ordskiftet, gjennom deltakelse i radio og TV, samt intervjuer og kronikker i redaksjonelle medier og formidling via sosiale medier. I prosjektets siste år har prosjektleder sittet i et offentlig utvalg (#UngIDag), som har som sitt mandat å utrede likestillingsutfordringer blant barn og unge, med vekt på årsaker til kjønnsdelte utdanningsvalg. I løpet av prosjektperioden har interessen for tematikken økt betraktelig. Det gjelder særlig kjønnsdelte utdanningsvalg, og mannsdominansen i næringslivets toppledelse, som ikke bare offentlige myndigheter, men også næringslivet selv har blitt svært opptatt av.
Gender segregation in the labour market represents a significant challenge for Norwegian society in the years ahead, both from the perspective of individual freedom and growth, and from the perspective of society's economic sustainability and growth. Considering the labour shortages in some of the most segregated occupations, such as health care and engineering, it is vital to expand our knowledge about the mechanisms that drive both traditional and non-traditional occupational choices. It is also a challenge for sustainability that men disproportionately occupy the most powerful, highest paying jobs in the labour market, even though women outnumber men in most parts of the higher education system and have made significant inroads into a number of fields where they were previously underrepresented.
The project includes four main areas of research:
1) International comparisons of institutional contexts
2) Comparisons of female career patterns in the United States and Norway
3) Gendered educational choices and labour market entry in Norway
4) Segregating mechanisms within the Norwegian labour market over the life course
Important questions we seek to answer are: Is there a trade-off between the Norwegian welfare state regime and gender segregation in the labour market? In what ways does the large public sector, and men's and women's movement between sectors, contribute to reinforcing the pattern of gender segregation in the Norwegian labour market? To what extent do institutional differences across countries matter for their levels of gender segregation? What explains stability or change in gender segregation over time? How does gender segregation in the labour market change over the life course?
To answer our research questions we will be using a combination of longitudinal, comparative and innovative data sources. Our aim is to produce both theoretically significant and policy relevant research.