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Work-family balance and gender career gaps in Belgium (MAPO)

Research project TA/00/28 (Research action TA)


Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  GUERRY Marie-Anne - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2008-31/12/2009

Description :

The labor market situation differs between women and men. Wage inequalities and women spending less time on paid work are well known phenomena. Women also seem to struggle with career underachievement. They are underrepresented in leading business positions. In general, women have more difficulties moving op the corporate ladder. They seem to bump into an artificial barrier, the so called ‘glass ceiling’. Vertical occupational segregation is the outcome of this process.

The general goal of this project is to offer a better understanding of gender career differences in Belgium. The career gap is the result of a complex causal system of variables including personal characteristics (education, household situation, etc.), job characteristics and discrimination. Governmental and employers strategies also have an impact on careers. This research focuses on the impact that work/family role strains have on the gender career gap, which is related to the characteristics mentioned above.

Women still take on a larger part of domestic work than men. That results in a more difficult combination of labor and family and partly explains the career gap. The question is to what extent gender differences in the interaction between labor and family explain the career gap between women and men. Moreover, the career gap depends on (1) personal factors as education and household situation, (2) irregular shifts such as part time work or the possibility to work at home and (3) the presence of family friendly measures as nurseries or the possibility of career breaks or thematic leaves. However, the effects of these variables are not always unambiguous. For example, the possibility to work at home reduces the tension between labor and family although it is conceivable that promotion probabilities of home workers tend to be lower as a result of reduced contact with the place to work.

Using Markov methodology, individuals can be grouped into homogenous groups with similar transition probabilities between the different career levels. As a first approximation, transitions in the flow through different wage levels will be investigated. By detecting bottlenecks in these flows, we try to evaluate the so called wage gap from a more dynamic perspective. Then the analysis will be redone for transitions between career levels, in order to detect and explain gender differences in promotion probabilities at different career levels. In order to be able to investigate transitions inside companies and between companies, a career scale will be created that transforms the career concept into a feasible multidimensional concept in which – apart from income – factors like profession status and authority are also taken into account.

This research will use the data that was collected in the Panel Study on Belgian Households (PSBH). In this longitudinal dataset (1992-2002) individuals were repeatedly interviewed about their employment situation and other factors that characterize the work/family balance. Moreover, the PSBH dataset contains, in addition to the individual data, information on a household level. This allows us to investigate career decisions on a family level.

The expected results of this project are mainly situated in the field of policy, but also in the field of fundamental research. At the level of fundamental research, the goals are (1) to translate the career as a multidimensional concept into an operational career scale and (2) to improve the quantitative foundation of the Markov methodology that is being used. The policy related goals are (1) to map and explain the career gap (2) to map and explain the bottlenecks in the development of the wage and career gap and (3) to evaluate the impact of the work/family balance on career differences between women and men.


Documentation :

De m/v carrièrekloof : Carrièreverschillen tussen vrouwen en mannen in België  Deschacht, Nick - Baerts, Anneleen - Guerry, Marie-Anne  Gent : Academia Press, 2011 (PB6267)
[To download

L’impact d’exercices d’équilibre sur le milieu du travail et de la famille en ce qui concerne le fossé entre les carrières des femmes et des hommes en Belgique (MAPO) : synthèse de recherche     Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2010 (SP2163)
[To download

Impact van evenwichtsoefening arbeid-gezin op loopbaanverschillen tussen mannen en vrouwen in België (MAPO) : synthese van het onderzoek    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2010 (SP2164)
[To download

Work-family balance and gender career gaps in Belgium (MAPO) : research summary    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2010 (SP2165)
[To download

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