Women and men in the labour market twenty years after graduation: Same starting point, but same point of arrival?
Lídia Daza · Senior advisor of Internationalisation and Knowledge Generation Department
AQU Catalunya has carried out a study on the quality of employment outcomes from a gender perspective twenty years after obtaining a bachelor's equivalent degree, with the support of the seven Catalan public universities, the Secretariat for Universities and the Catalan Institute for Women. This is the third study to assess the differences in access to the labour market between women and men, having analysed them three years and ten years after finishing university.
In these first two reports, it was found that there were more similarities than differences, and that the degree studied and individual variability were much more decisive variables in labour market outcomes than sex. One hypothesis as to why the differences were smaller than expected was that phenomena such as the glass ceiling or wage discrimination had not had time to appear.
The current study, carried out twenty years after graduation, enables us to fully understand the equalities and differences between women and men in the labour market:
Similar levels of participation in the labour market between women and men, in line with what was found in the initial outcomes, but with higher percentages.
Evolution of the employed population
Women, the stars of part-time work. This is a clearly feminised employment characteristic, linked to motherhood. It was already so in the initial outcomes, and it's worse after twenty years.
Logically, it is the most influential variable in wage earnings, and its impact on earnings once a person leaves the labour market should not be forgotten. Moreover, for the theory of human capital depreciation, it has consequences for opportunities for promotion and for taking up positions of responsibility.
Evolution of part-time employment1
Main reason for choosing part-time employment twenty years after graduation
The glass ceiling phenomenon persists. The lower likelihood of women to occupy managerial positions remains at similar levels over time. This gap is mainly related to gender, the family factor and the employment sector. Firstly, women are half as likely as men to hold certain positions of responsibility over others, because they mostly work part-time, shorter working hours and are less willing to work longer hours and travel for work purposes. Next, having children is associated with a 73% increase in the likelihood of holding these positions for both men and women. And finally, in the private sector the chances increase by 58%. .
Evolution of the performance of leadership/management functions in the workplace2
Factors of inequality in assuming positions of responsibility over others3
The pay gap is also present among the university community. The pay imbalance between women and men increases over time. After twenty years, women receive 82% of the salary of their male colleagues.
Evolution of the gross monthly earnings of the full-time employed population
However, it is important to note that the degree studied remains the factor that has the greatest impact on wage inequalities, more so than sex.
Factors explaining gross annual earnings4
A look by extended sub-field shows that the differences between women and men are smaller than those between particular degrees.
Gross annual earnings of women and men in full-time employment, by extended sub-field5
Women and men benefit equally from work-life measures, but there is clear segregation: women adopt flexitime (64.2%) or the shorter working day (56.4%), while men opt for flexitime (82.5%), the intensive working day (60.5%) or working from home (56.5%), all measures that do not imply a reduction in labour market participation.
Finally, in addition to the objective inequalities evidenced in the labour market, which clearly affect women, there is the fact that they occupy a more vulnerable position in terms of more subjective issues, such as the fact that women feel that they their time is not adequately distributed between the different areas of their lives and that they perceive slightly more discrimination than men in the labour market when it comes to promotion. Among those who perceive such discrimination, twice as many women as men say that the discrimination is gender-based.
Punts d’interès especial
 Due to the lack of data for the same graduates three years after obtaining their degree (2001 graduates), the data provided for this point in time are those corresponding to the 2008 edition of the employment outcomes survey, which refers to 2004 graduates.
 No information is available for the same graduating class three years after graduation. The comparison is between data collected ten and twenty years after graduation from the sub-sample for which data are available: history, economics and business administration and management, medicine, chemical engineering and agricultural engineering. The volume of persons with managerial responsibility is shown, excluding persons with a self-employed contract.
 A logistic model has been made to analyse the difference between women and men in the likelihood of reaching a managerial position (considering only employed persons) controlling for: age, maternity/paternity, company sector (public/private) and company size.
 A multilevel linear model has been run to analyse the difference between women and men in gross annual earnings obtained with degree as a random effect and controlling for: age, maternity/paternity, firm sector, firm size, management/managerial positions, type of contract and functions performed at work. The variance explained by the set of variables introduced as fixed effects is 11%.
 Data are not shown for the arts and design and social intervention sub-fields, due to an insufficient sample of women and men.