Saturday, July 28, 2007

Breaking the glass ceiling from above

In Norway, since 1988, there must be a minimum of 40% of each gender in publicly appointed committees, boards, and councils, and from January 2008 females will have to make up at least 40% of all shareholder-owned companies' boards of directors. The French Parliament passed legislation in 2001 mandating gender parity in party lists for a variety of elections. In Spain, in 2004, 50% of the newly elected Prime Minister Zapatero's cabinet appointments were women. Furthermore, in March 2007, the Equality Law was passed, imposing gender parity (at least 40% of members of each gender) in all selection committees in the state administration, party lists, public organisations and related firms. Private corporations also received governmental guidelines towards greater participation of women on boards.

This is from this post at VoxEU, that goes on to explain the rationale behind such quotas and looks at the available evidence for their efficacy.

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An earlier post at the same blog explored the role of technological progress (medical advances, in particular) on enhanced participation of women in the labor market. This study leads to some interesting conclusions indeed:

One important lesson from this analysis is that gender equality in the labour market is intimately linked to equality in the household division of labour. Policies aimed at reducing gender disparities in earning opportunities are likely to fail if they do not include provisions to reduce women's contribution to home production relative to men.

Many countries are discussing the introduction of more generous maternal leave policies to help women reconcile their maternal and professional roles and reduce their disadvantage with respect to men. Our analysis suggests that such policies may well be counter productive. Generous maternal leave policies reinforce the division of labour that underlies the mechanism by which women are offered lower wages. This is likely to further depress women's professional advancement. Sweden seems to have moved in the right direction with the introduction of a father's month requirement that compels fathers to take at least 30 days of parental leave. By directly reducing the gender asymmetries in the allocation of parental responsibilities, this policy decreases the potential for statistical discrimination that leads to gender inequalities in wages.

Thanks to Mark Thoma (here and here) for the pointers.