March 8th is International Women’s Day, celebrating the achievements of great women from history, and championing a gender-equal world, free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.
There’s still a long way to go until true gender parity is achieved. But this IWD, there are real reasons to be positive, particularly in the world of work. At Boundless, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the many steps different nations are taking to achieve equality and afford better support and opportunity to women in the workplace.
So, let’s take a look at some of the good work going on around the globe - considering pay, (the most often cited benchmark of parity) together with other crucial factors such as maternity packages, flexible working and forms of leave specifically catered to women and their circumstances.
A look at the big picture
Overall, while the Covid-19 crisis has had a negative impact on gender gaps, there is some positive news to be had, with gaps in educational attainment and healthcare nearly closed across the globe.
When it comes to specific examples, many rankings, including the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, name Iceland as the best place for women to live and work, citing high education levels and gender pay parity which is enshrined in law. Norway is also a positive example – a 2020 law requiring 40% of board members to be women at public companies is today making for a fairer working environment. Finland is often lauded for its proactive approach to gender equality issues, offering generous parental leave to women and affordable childcare provision supported by the government.
Mind the gap: achieving pay equality
The gender pay gap is perhaps the most discussed issue of all when it comes to the pursuit of equality. In 2019, women's gross hourly earnings were on average 14.1% below those of men in the EU. In the US the gap sits at 20% and in Asia at 19%. But some countries are giving us hope by rapidly making progress in closing the gaps. In Luxembourg, the current gender pay gap stands at just 1.4%, Poland sits at just over 7%, while in Ireland it is around 8%. Progress is possible but work remains to be done. According to reports, the gender pay gap is generally much lower for new labour market entrants and tends to widen with age.
Providing leave when things go wrong
While we are used to having paid leave (covered by either employer or government) to take care of a child or recover from an illness, some countries are taking this a step further to include leave for women facing other challenging situations. For example, in 2021, New Zealand passed a law to give women three days’ statutory paid bereavement leave after a miscarriage, ensuring they don’t need to use up sick leave under such awful circumstances.
But while New Zealand has received praise for this move, they aren’t the first to do it - many Asian nations have had provisions in place for grieving parents for nearly six decades. For example, India has had the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act since 1961, which grants six weeks of fully paid leave for women who experience a miscarriage at any stage in their pregnancy.
New Zealand also set a precedent in 2018 when it passed a law to allow victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid work leave to allow them to escape their partner's abuse. This forward-looking move sets an example other countries will no doubt follow in years to come. Sadly, in New Zealand it’s particularly necessary, as the country has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world, with police responding to a family violence incident every four minutes.
Generous and flexible maternity packages
Bulgaria boasts one of Europe’s best maternity packages, allowing new mothers to take a minimum of 58.6 weeks off (410 days) – the longest minimum maternity leave in the world – with the country's National Health Insurance Fund paying 90% of their full salary during leave.
Finland also offers a very long parental leave to its employees, with both parents entitled to parental leave of 164 days each. Parents will be able to transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent and, importantly, single parents will have the right to use the parental allowance of both parents.
The Norwegian welfare system has always been seen as generous and extends its maternity package to pregnancy, too. In Norway, employees are entitled to a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks during their pregnancy.
Bring an equal experience for women in your organisation
While there’s plenty to be done to ensure gender parity at work, it’s heartening to see many nations making steady progress with their statutory benefits. If you’re interested in finding out more about the ongoing journey towards gender equality, we recommend reading the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap report as well as the Office of National Statistics’ pay gap analysis, which gives an in-depth picture of what’s happening in the UK.
We hope that when the next IWD rolls around we’ll be able to report even more initiatives and further progress to support the women we work with around the world. This, however, will be as much driven by individual companies as it will be by governments. If you want to harmonise the employment experience of all your employees around the world, Boundless can support you to provide an equal experience across borders. Get in touch.
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Written by Irina Dzhambazova
Irina Dzhambazova is the editor of this publication and leads many of the marketing efforts behind Boundless. Previously she crafted stories at SaaStock and Dublin Globe and travelled the world capturing case studies of companies using the Kanban Method. Throughout this experience, she was almost always "the remote worker" and knows a thing or two about the potential and challenges of this way of working.
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