Business woman (11)

Despite progress that has been made with more women entering the workplace, the UK is still one of the worst countries in Europe for gender diversity at work. 

A survey of 18 European countries, conducted by Glassdoor Economic Research, Britain ranked 11th on overall gender equality behind the likes of the Scandinavian countries, France and Spain, scoring below average on three-quarters of factors.

The one bright spot for the UK is its third place ranking for having the highest proportion of female managers, only just behind Sweden and Norway.

The report looked at 12 key factors, including; female-to-male ratio, proportion female managers, and the gender gap in employment rates by educational attainment.

Glassdoor research 1

Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of Glassdoor, said: “In the UK there are fewer women than men in the workplace. However, this gap is considerably narrower for those with a university education. By contrast, Sweden, Norway and Finland all have an almost equal balance of men and women in the labour market and can be a lesson for the UK.

“Of some concern is the high ‘cost of motherhood’ in the UK, whereby the gender pay gap widens amongst working women with children. British working mothers are significantly worse off than those without family responsibilities, and this pressure will not help the UK address its workplace diversity issues.”

Further education and employment

Looking at full-time equivalent employment (taking into account the number of hours worked) the gender gap widens and is generally two to three times higher than for overall employment. This highlights the differences in the hours worked by men and women, with women less likely to be employed full-time. The gender gap for those who have gone through tertiary education (University) is around half of what it is for those with less than upper secondary education. Further education thus significantly increases a woman’s probability of being employed.


In Sweden, Norway, the UK and Portugal, more than 35% of managers are women. However, in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Denmark the proportion drops to below 30%. Female managers are most under-represented in the Netherlands, at only 26%.

Glassdoor research 2

At board level, women are under-represented too: fewer than 40% of board members of listed companies are women. Norway, at 36% percent, has the highest proportion of women, due partly to a legislation-based quota system introduced in 2006. In France, Finland, and Sweden, around 30% of board members are women. In Denmark, the UK, Italy, and Germany, it is around 26%. In Ireland, Portugal and Greece, the proportion is between 13% and 10%; while in Estonia, the proportion is a lowly 8%.

Cost of motherhood

The gender pay gap increases with the presence of children in a family. The pay difference (with respect to men) between women with at least one child and those with no children is highest by far in Ireland (31 percentage points, or ‘pp’). The cost of motherhood is also comparatively high in Germany (23pp), but lowest in Italy Spain and Belgium (3pp or less). In the UK, it is 14pp.

Glassdoor research 3

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