The bluff on women’s employment

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The new ISTAT report on “Fair and sustainable well-being” has published, among other things, two important novelties with regard to women’s condition: there are more women on the labor market, with a significant leap forward in their employment rate from 47 to 50.3% and there are more women who occupy decision-making posts in economy and politics. But whereas this is true on a general level, if we analyze those percentages more into detail, they will reveal the effort to make a few distinctions. In fact, while recording an increase in terms of percentage, women’s participation in the labor market remains on one of the lowest levels in Europe, so much so that, to bridge the gap between the two sexes, it is estimated that at least 3 and a half million women more should work.

And whereas it is true that women work more, it is also true that in most cases this depends on the effects of the so-called “Fornero” law, which has significantly raised retirement age, postponing by several years the exit of many women workers from the world of work. It is not a chance that on data regarding the second quarter of 2015, ISTAT says that employment growth concerns mainly the over 50 age group, while younger women continue to inexorably lose ground. The same is true for women who occupy decision-making posts in politics and economy: there is an increase, but not at all levels and not for all the professional figures, especially not among those of higher profiles.

Women, as we all know, are paid less for the same work, are more vulnerable to unwanted part-time jobs and precariousness, and have less career chances even when they have better training: in legal and selective procedures women obtain, on average, better performance than men. Women’s careers and role in the specific field of research was discussed at the recent conference organized by FIR CISL, the Italian Federation Research, and by the person in charge of the Coordination Women of the same Federation, Dr. Raffaella Galasso. Taking on the data published in the volume “Portrait of a Lady” by the Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies of the CNR, in our country, women employed in research constitute 38%, 21% work in sector firms, and  44.2 % in the public sector (40% is the European average at 27). Yet, whereas at the time of entering the world of work, researchers reach 48%, further in their careers they go down to 24%. In key position, besides, their percentage decreases even more, below 17%.

In Italy, as we have seen, women’s employment in research concentrates mainly in public facilities and this is largely due to the certainty of being able to enjoy different warranties and protections such as maternity and equal access to work. Since 2000 onwards, researchers have increased by about 10 percentage points. But this framework becomes less positive, as we have said, if we look at their presence in apical positions. Here as well, as it had happened till a few years ago with the boards of directors in companies, it is very unlikely that something is going to change in an autogenous manner, and proclamations, advices and reminders do not suffice. Undoubtedly, discussing it is of utter importance because it is primarily a cultural fact that has consolidated over the years as a “granite” and therefore needs a capillary promotional and awareness effort, but this process needs to be necessarily accompanied by a legal impact framework that will give a shock to the system’s immobility.

As CISL women we believe that one of the main paths to follow is also the legislative one. The 120/2011 law on quotas in boards of directors relating to sex differences, which we had supported, “docet“; in the listed companies women councilors reached 27.4% (CONSOB data) with an increase of 21%. An extraordinary result, considering that, not long before that, the Bank of Italy had estimated that at least 50 years were needed to reach 30%.

Liliana Ocmin

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