Science - November 7, 2019

‘Men should start working part-time’

Coretta Jongeling

Sweden is ahead in the gender equality stakes. But even there, men still earn more than women. According to the Swedish PhD student Yla Ran, it would help if men worked less in order to take on more care tasks at home. Her proposition: ‘If “men” start acting like “women” we can close the gender pay gap.’

PhD candidates are required to submit a few propositions with their thesis. In this feature, they explain the thinking behind their most thought-provoking proposition. This time it’s the turn of Yla Ran, who was awarded her doctorate on 30 August for her thesis on water use by livestock farmers in Latin America.

In Sweden men and women get equal parental leave

 ‘Although men and women often earn the same at the start of their career, a difference in salary gradually arises. One of the reasons for this is that women often demand more flexibility in their working hours. They often want to, or feel they need to work less in order to take care of their children or other family members.

Suppose you have two children and therefore worked part time for three years. Then you have had fewer opportunities than someone who has worked full time all the time. If men also demanded more flexibility from their employer, men and women would have the same opportunities for advancement and salary development in their work. Research shows that this is the most effective way to reduce the gender pay gap.

I come from Sweden, where men and women receive the same number of days of parental leave by default. You must then request permission to redistribute it differently. I think that is a good incentive, and would be good in the Netherlands as well, to ensure that men and women take the same responsibility for the children.

But there is still work to be done here. In Sweden, pay is not yet equal, and that includes universities and the research world. I want to make people think about why this is.’