What could be the cause of that?
“Women’s rights, as they were established by law, are undoubtedly a cause of this. The traditional division of labor that emerged at that time, even generations later, often still creates social pressure for women to take on most of the family care duties, for example. Also, looking at the current number of women in top positions, there is still a glass ceiling for women, who often see their male colleagues advance their careers faster.
Finally, I don’t think many women realize enough about the effects of certain choices - for example, going to work part-time when children are born. Not only are you signing up for a pay gap during your career, but also for a pension gap afterward.”
Sounds like there’s a lot of work yet to be done, to close that gap. Where should we start?
“It starts with awareness, so good education is essential. I see a role for employers in this. For example, by actively talking to part-time women about how they can be facilitated to work more hours. For example, through more flexible working hours or work from home options. I bet there are a lot more options when you look at reality through a different lens.
Favoring women with a quota is also a common tool. However, I see that more as a tool than a solution. It does not address the source of the problem.
Another role is for husbands and partners; they can encourage their wives. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a female colleague. She took a step up the ladder and got a managerial position. Very nice of course. But her husband didn't like that at all. Because: she was away from home more often, had more responsibility and worked more in the evening. What about the kids? The husband immediately looked to his wife for childcare and not to himself or other solutions.”
And then there are the women themselves, of course. How can they themselves tomorrow close that gap a little bit?
“Start looking for information. There is plenty about this topic on the Internet. Make sure you understand, for example, what working less means, both in the here and now (wage gap), but also for your career and your future after retirement (pension gap). Ask yourself if you would make the same choices based on this information. If you work less, you will later depend on your husband's pension pot. Do you want that? And what if you're no longer together by then? Do you want to run that risk? And discuss this at the kitchen table at home. I have witnessed a divorce in my community where the wife got so much less than the husband. I wouldn't want to experience that. And I wouldn’t wish that on my kids either.
Take a look at your salary too. Women still earn less than men for the same work. On top of that, it is often still a typical woman thing not to negotiate. Or see if you couldn’t work a few more hours. Discuss this with your employer and negotiate your salary. When I took a new step within APG, I asked HR whether my salary was appropriate. It wasn’t even about the money, but I wanted to make sure it had been seriously considered.”
International Women’s Day is also a day to celebrate what is going well, of course. What progress have you experienced yourself and what would you like to pass on?
“Let’s face it, a lot has already changed for the better over the past few generations. For example, my parents encouraged me from childhood to develop myself and earn my own money. Thanks in part to them, I am financially independent. With the full support of my husband, incidentally; I am proud of that too. Buying new shoes with my husband’s credit card? I can’t even imagine that! I am also grateful for the female role models I had. My mother showed me that work and family don't have to get in the way of each other. She always joked that with my father’s income, we paid the fixed expenses and from her income we did the fun things. Both my grandmothers also worked, even in the days when this was not done. So I am not used to anything other than women doing their part. And that is also what I want to pass on to my two daughters. That you can achieve a lot with work. That goes much further than just in a financial sense. Working and being independent is also related to the balance and equality in a relationship. Plus, it’s fun to work and it can be very meaningful.”