Women in the Workforce and Gender Equality


Although the overall situation of women has improved in the past decades they still are discriminated against when it comes to work. They get paid less than men for the same work that they do and in some cases do not have the same opportunities as men to reach high-ranking positions. However this is starting to change.

Especially organizations, like the United Nations or UNESCO are giving women better opportunities. Many European Union countries have introduced quotas for women in high-ranking positions. But in other areas they are still second-class citizens.



In industrial countries of the developed world they have become more than equal to males. In the past four decades the proportion of women who have paid jobs has gone up from below half to 64 %. There are, however, differences from country to country. While in Scandinavian countries almost three quarters of all women have a job, the number of females on the labor force in southern and eastern Europe is only about 50%.

The role of women has changed drastically during the 20th century. In the early 1900s female workers were employed mainly in factories or worked as servants.  In the course of time they got more educated and started working as nurses, teachers, even doctors and lawyers.



In the 1960s, women, for the first time, were able to actively plan their families. Birth control pills and other contraceptives made it possible for women to have a career, family or even both. Many went to high school and college and sought a job. In the 1970s women in developed countries started to become a major part of the workforce.

More females in the workforce have brought along many advantages for industries and employers. They have a wider variety of workers to choose from and women often have better ideas and make positive contributions to how things are done.

Additional workers also help the economy thrive. They spend money and contribute to the growth of national income. In many countries they provide extra income for a country whose population is getting older and older. In America, economists think that the GDP is 25% larger than it would be without women on the workforce.

According to a new survey about one billion women are expected to enter the workforce in the next decade. This should not only contribute to economic growth but also improve gender equality.

Even though women should be treated equally, they still get, on average, about 18% less pay for the same work. Females suffer from inequalities in other areas too.


Many women wish to start a career and search for fulfillment outside family life. However, in most cases it is harder for them to get to the absolute top than it is for men. Only about 3% of the top CEOs are women.

While the situation of women in developed countries may have come to a standstill, females in Asian countries, like China, Singapore or South Korea are experiencing a boom in good job offers. More and more of them are reaching top positions.

One of the issues that still are hard for a woman to manage is child care. Not only do they spend more on education and baby sitters, especially single mothers who raise a child alone find it nearly impossible to reach a top position at the same time.

Even if a woman has a working husband, men are not keen on taking leave to care for the baby. Most men still consider this a woman’s job.

Nevertheless, there are countries where women and men lead equal lives and also find equal opportunity. Among Scandinavian countries, which generally offer many opportunities for women, Iceland ranks first.The United States is currently in 19th place, up from the 31st spot, mainly because President Obama has offered women more jobs in government offices. At the bottom of the list are developing countries like Yemen and Pakistan.


Online Exercises


Related Topics



  • according to = as said by ….
  • actively = here: to get involved in; to do something about a situation
  • additional = extra
  • advantage = the good side of something
  • although = while
  • billion = a thousand million
  • birth control pill = pill that women take to prevent them from getting a baby
  • century = a hundred years
  • CEO = chief executive officer = the president or boss of a large company
  • child care = to look after a child
  • consider =think, believe
  • contraceptive = drug, object or method that prevents a woman from getting a baby
  • contribution = something you can offer or give
  • currently = right now
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • developed world = rich, industrial countries
  • developing countries =poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America
  • discriminate against = to treat a person or a group of people in an unfair way
  • drastically = very much
  • economist = a person who is an expert in financial things and the economy
  • economy = the way in which a country’s money and goods are produced
  • educate = to go to a higher school
  • employ = to give work
  • equal = the same
  • especially = above all
  • experience = when something happens
  • female = woman
  • fulfillment = being happy or satisfied with your life because you have everything you need
  • GDP = gross domestic product = the value of all the products and services that a country produces in one year
  • gender equality = when men and women have the same chances, get the same pay etc…
  • high-ranking = top, well-paid
  • however = but
  • improve = to get better
  • in the course of time = as time goes on
  • inequality = a situation when two things are not the same
  • introduce = start, set up
  • issue = topic
  • keen on = like
  • labor force = all the people who work in a country
  • lawyer = someone who represents people in court and  knows a lot about the laws of a country
  • mainly = mostly
  • major = very important
  • manage = deal with
  • nevertheless = but, however
  • opportunity = chance
  • proportion = share
  • provide = give
  • quota = here: the number of women that should work in a certain place
  • raise = bring up, care for
  • rank = the position you have in a list
  • search = look for
  • seeksought = look for
  • servant = someone who is paid to do housework
  • standstill = when something stops growing
  • suffer = to feel bad about
  • survey = questions that you ask people in order to find out how they think about something
  • take leave = to stop working and stay at home to care for a baby
  • thrive = increase, go up, boom
  • variety = selection, range