RBS Research Report: Gender Gap between Covid-19, PNRR and women in media

  • Today, Italy ranks last among industrialized countries for the quality of its employment due to a lag in smart working and an endemic lack of job stability.
  • 61% of women with children are stressed by the pressures in the family and 54% reported reduced productivity since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to 53% and 46% respectively of men with children.
  • During 2020, Italy’s female employment rate stood at 49% (-1.1% compared to 2019), with a gap compared to the male rate of as much as 18.2 percentage points.
  • In Italy, the percentage of women in executive levels is only 17%, compared to 32% in Norway and 24% in Great Britain.
  • According to the Bank of Italy, increasing female employment to the 60% envisaged by the PNRR would increase national GDP by 7%.
  • Trentino Alto-Adige is the region with the highest female employment rate in Italy (65%), followed by the provinces of Bologna (68.1%) and Bolzano (67.9%), in sharp contrast to Caltanissetta (23.6%) and Crotone (23.9%).
  • Women studying engineering, manufacturing and construction are 8% compared to 24% of men; in information & technology they represent 0.28% compared to 2.05% of men and in STEM they are 16% compared to 34% of men.
  • Women represent 60% of the total number of graduates in Italy but, five years after graduation, men earn, on average, about 20% more. Among Italian first-level graduates, the employment rate is 69.1% for men and 62.4% for women.
  • In Italy, women make up 26% of news ‘subjects’ compared with the European average of 28%. Their presence as ‘experts’ has decreased in all news channels: in the last 5 years, articles, posts and services related to female professors, nurses, doctors, have dropped by 25%.
  • Globally, more attention to gender equality could increase world GDP by 12%, with about 10 million new jobs and a more sustainable economic growth even estimated at 75%.

Rome, March 2, 2022. Rome Business School has published the research “The Gender Gap in Italy. Women, Covid and the future of work: the role of the PNRR and the world of information”, edited by Valerio Mancini, Professor and Director of the Research Center of the Rome Business School, and Simona Sinesi, entrepreneur and professor at the Rome Business School. The research takes stock of the gender gap in Italy, analyzing the factors that determine it, to what extent the Covid has cancelled part of the progress made, the PNRR and the future of work, and how women are represented today in the media.
Closing the gender gap worldwide will take over 135 years. The pandemic has caused women’s participation in the labor market to plummet globally, and no one has been prepared to adequately adapt to the new normal. It is no coincidence that Italy is now among the last places among industrialized countries for the quality of its employment (OSCE, WEF) precisely because of a delay in smart working, combined with an endemic lack of job stability.


COVID-19 and the future of work


The pandemic has further burdened women’s workload, in the workplace and in the family, finding themselves managing the latter by working from home. According to data from the Ipsos survey “The Future of Smart-Working: Opportunities and Risks for Companies and Workers” (2021), women with children report a higher percentage of stress due to changes in work routines and pressures on family care during the pandemic: 61% of women with children are stressed by pressures in the family such as caring for children (compared to 53% men with children); and 54% of women with children reported reduced productivity since the pandemic began (compared to 46% of men with children). Flexible work arrangements are also seen by them as insufficient in the absence of adequate childcare.
“Women today need flexible contracts more than ever. These represent a cultural obstacle, above all, that must be overcome: in Italy, in too many companies, the rule is still in force that those who work longer hours are rewarded, not those who are more productive. In this way, women too often find themselves penalized because of family burdens,” says Valerio Mancini.
Coming to the data of the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 (WEF), women have higher unemployment rates, partly because they are often employed in sectors directly affected by social distancing measures. Even at the beginning of the pandemic, women’s labor force participation showed a more pronounced decline than men’s: 5% of all employed women lost their jobs, compared to 3.9% of men (ISTAT 2021). Not only that, women’s re-employment has been slower.
Today, hiring women in leadership roles is also in sharp decline. The percentage of women CEOs in Italy, according to data from the European Women on Boards (EWB) association, fell to 3% in 2021 (in 2020 they represented 4%), which places our country at the bottom of the ranking along with Germany (3%) and Switzerland (2%) and behind Spain (4%) and Portugal (6%), compared with 26% in Norway, 18% in the Czech Republic and 14% in Poland. Outside the boardroom, female leadership in Italy is still far from being balanced: the percentage of women in executive levels is only 17%, compared with 32% in Norway and 24% in Great Britain.

Women and media


According to the Global Media Monitoring Project 2020 (GGMP), in the EU countries, since 2015, reports dealing with women have grown by only 2% (28%), they are better represented in news related to issues of Society, Justice, Crime and Violence, Politics and Government than in other areas, but more often they appear as subjects whose occupation is not identified and are present at 22% only in the most cited category by the media, that of politicians.
In our country, on the other hand, women make up 26% of news “subjects” (-2% compared to the EU average), despite the fact that 40% of Italian editorial offices are composed of women journalists. However, when the top positions within editorial offices are analyzed, yet another gender gap is revealed: “in Italy we have only one female director of a press agency, Alessia Lautone, and of a national newspaper, Agnese Pini, and female voices are still strongly marginalized in daily news”, comments Alessio Postiglione, Program Director of the Professional Master in Corporate Communication Management at Rome Business School.
The latest GGMP report shows that compared to 2015, female representation in the media in Italy has increased by 2% compared to the last five years. Women appear more often as ‘spokespersons’ of parties or other realities, but their presence as ‘experts’ appears to have decreased in all information channels, specifically: in 2015 the percentage of women ‘experts’ consulted by newspapers and other editorial offices detected was about 18%, in 2020 instead the number plummeted to 14% on online titles and 12% on the others. In Europe, on the other hand, the percentage of women consulted as “experts” has increased by 6% compared to 2015. A figure that is surprising given the importance of the role of women during the pandemic, particularly in the health field. It almost seems to have had an opposite effect in Italy compared to the rest of Europe: articles, posts and services related to female professors, nurses, doctors have dropped as low as 11% in Italy, a 25% reduction in just five years.
Giving more space to women in the media is not only a matter of social justice, but would generate a long series of benefits in the long run. In fact, according to a study by the European Institute for Gender Equality, more attention to gender equality could increase world GDP by 12%, with about 10 million new jobs and more sustainable economic growth even estimated at 75%.

The Gender Pay Gap


In Italy, the difference in payroll between men and women is 23.7% against a European average of 29.6%, men earn on average about 2,705 euros per year more than women (EUROSTAT 2020 data). Despite this, women are less present in the world of finance, among top managers, in politics and in professions related to new technologies.
Analyzing the 2022 report by AlmaLaurea, the result of a survey involving 291,000 graduates in Italy, women represent 60% of the total number of graduates in Italy but, five years after graduation, men earn, on average, about 20% more. Furthermore, among Italian first-level graduates, the employment rate was 69.1% for men and 62.4% for women.
Again, according to the survey, five years after graduation, men are more likely to occupy high-level roles, i.e., entrepreneurial or managerial (2.2% among women and 3.9% among men). Men also have an advantage in terms of some of the characteristics of the work they do: they are more likely to be self-employed (7.5% of women and 11.6% of men among first-level graduates five years after graduation) or employed with an open-ended contract (64.5% of women and 67.4% of men among first-level graduates; 52.2% and 59.1% among second-level graduates). Women, on the other hand, work to a relatively greater extent with non-standard contracts (17.0% for women and 12.2% for men among first-level graduates); this is also linked to the fact that they are employed, more than men, in the public sector (35.8% and 28.4% among first-level graduates; 24.4% and 16.5% among second-level graduates).
This gender gap generates inevitable negative repercussions on the economy of our country that go beyond working life: 52.2% of pensioners are women but they receive 44.1% of the total expenditure. Not only that, the total fertility rate, in 2021, is nailed to 1.24 children per woman and Italy is now the EU country with the second largest decline in newborns: they have declined by 30% in the last 12 years. Italy will lose in the next 45 years about 6.8 million inhabitants, a worrying figure that would be equivalent today to a loss of about 11% of the total population.

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