COMMENT: Russian women earn only 65 kopeks for every ruble earned by men

By bne IntelliNews April 9, 2012

Bank of Finland's Institute for Economies in Transition -

The latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap 2011 survey ranks Russia 43 out of the 135 countries surveyed. As usual, the Nordic countries topped the list as most egalitarian, while the most gender-discriminating countries were found in Africa and the Middle East. China ranked 61.

The WEF arrived at its overall gender gap assessment by compiling results of a country's performance in four gender gap sub-indexes. Russia's highest ranking (29) was under the "Economic Participation and Opportunity" sub-index. The ranking reflected the high degree of participation of Russian women in the workforce, a common situation throughout most of the former Soviet Union. Russian women ranked top in the world in participation of professional and technical workers. Overall, however, women's earned incomes were just 65 % those of men. The earnings gap has, however, diminished in recent years.

The WEF estimated that women in Russia made up 37 % of legislators, senior officials and managers. However, the higher the position, the less likely it was to be held by a woman - not just in Russia, but everywhere. Even at the senior management level, Russian women are usually found in traditional fields that offered a path to advancement. For example, a recent PwC study found women in senior management were most likely to hold the post of chief accountant, head of personnel or chief financial officer.

Another survey by Grant Thornton International found that women constitute 46% of senior management in Russia and that 15% of CEOs in Russian firms are women. Both these shares were higher than in the 39 countries covered by the survey, including Finland, Sweden, the US and the UK. Business consultants at McKinsey note, however, that only 8 % of Russian board members are women - far fewer women than are found on corporate boards in most of Western Europe. Interestingly, the EU's proposed "women's quota" for corporate boards could increase the presence of women on boards of Russian corporations. This is because a significant share of Russia's large firms are registered within the EU (eg. the Netherlands and the UK).

Russia's WEF rankings were also higher than its overall ranking in the sub-indexes for "Health and Survival" (33) and "Educational Attainment" (41). The gap between the average lifespan of men and women (ranking 1!) reflected the sad fact of the low average life expectancy for Russian men. In terms of educational opportunity, the lot of women was enhanced by the proportionally larger number of Russian women than men who engage in graduate studies.

Russia's lowest ranking came in the "Political Empowerment" sub-index (84); less than a fifth of Duma deputies and ministers were women.

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