IPP Policy Brief n°45 - September 2019Female Role Models: are they effective at encouraging girls to study science?
How do we combat gender inequality?
While women today are as likely or more likely to have degrees as men, they are still disadvantaged in the labour market vis-à-vis their male counterparts. Understanding the causes of such inequality between men and women is a precondition for the implementation of effective public policy to counter it.
Women today have on average more degrees than men, but their monthly salary is 24.5% lower than men’s. The gender segregation between the scientific and humanities fields explains almost one third of the salary differences: all things being equal, girls are half as likely to choose a scientific field than boys. The under-representation of women in these areas that lead to management positions does not seem to be the result of explicit discrimination and seems to benefit those women who choose to go into disciplines that traditionally have been male dominated. The prevalence of stereotypes and certain social norms seem to be the main causes of women’s under-representation.
All things being equal, girls are half as likely as boys to choose a scientific field of study
The taxation and social security systems, because of differences in life situations and behaviours, can also be sources of gender inequality. For example, family rights in the current pension system do not compensate women for their career hazards, and the organisation of social time, especially school hours, influences job offers for women and potentially aggravates inequality in the labour market.
Policy options and their effectiveness
Promoting women’s access to jobs and functions traditionally reserved for men can in part be done through coercive measures such as quota policies. However, to ensure diversity over the long term and in healthy conditions, we must first eliminate the gendered stereotypes that describe certain trades and professions as more suitable for men or for women. The work of the IPP disrupts such received ideas, showing that the feminisation of firms and their management has positive effects on well-being at work and is in no case associated with reduced economic performance. Being proactive at the moment when individuals are making decisive choices about their career direction can also be effective.
Presentations by women scientists to lycée students increases by 30% the number of girls who enrol in scientific preparatory courses
Awareness-raising steps taken over the course of a pupil’s schooling significantly reduce the prevalence of stereotypes associated with women and encourage young women to pursue scientific careers. A presentation by a woman scientist to senior high school students increases by 30% the number of girls who enrol in a scientific preparatory class the following year. Finally, if reforming certain elements of our taxation/social security system is required in order to establish gender equality then designing policies that aim to reduce ex ante career hazards (increasing childcare places, extending paternity leave, and the like) is probably more effective than those that introduce ex post compensation measures (such as supplementary pension benefits).
Note: The graph compares student perceptions of gender differences in the sciences in the 2015-16 school year – by class (1st year of General and Technological senior high school and the final year of Scientific lycée) and by gender. The horizontal bars indicate the percentage of pupils in classes that did not invite a woman scientist to lecture, which confirms the assertion made earlier. The dots indicate the percentages seen in the classes that were visited by a young woman scientist. The impact of the programme is measured by the difference between the averages observed in the visited classes and the control classes. The confidence intervals of 95% are represented by horizontal T-shape bars.
Source: Study by questionnaire conducted in 2016 as part of the evaluation of the “For Girls in Science” programme.
Go further – associated publications
IPP Policy Brief n°38 - March 2019Sexual division of labour in the French Parliament
Authors: Quentin Lippmann
IPP Policy Brief n°26 - April 2017How does children’s school schedule affect mothers’ labor supply? Temporal flexibility and inequalities on the labor market
Authors: Emma Duchini and Clémentine Van Effenterre
IPP Policy Brief n°23 - March 2016Analysing socio-fiscal policies through the lens of gender inequality
Authors: Antoine Bozio, Sophie Cottet, Marion Monnet, Lucile Romanello
IPP Report n°14 - March 2016Assessing the gender impact of tax and benefit reforms
Authors: Sophie Cottet, Marion Monnet, Lucile Romanello
IPP Report n°12 - December 2015Feminisation and firms’ economic and social performance
Authors: Thomas Breda
IPP Policy Brief n°15 - December 2014Are girls discriminated against in the Sciences? Lessons from the ENS competitive entrance exams
Authors: Thomas Breda, Son-Thierry Ly
IPP Policy Brief n°14 - December 2014A helping hand for girls? Gender bias in marks and its effect on student progress
Authors: Camille Terrier
IPP Policy Brief n°8 - October 2013Pension reform: towards an overhaul of family rights
Authors: Carole Bonnet, Antoine Bozio, Camille Landais, Simon Rabaté and Marianne Tenand