Hardly a surprise

GIVING women a lengthy period of maternity leave could mean they miss out on highflying jobs, a new study has revealed.

The findings from three continents show that the more family-friendly a country tries to be, the less its women succeed in the workplace.

I\’ve been pointing this out to people for years.

British women fare better on the career ladder than in Sweden where a woman can take 60 weeks’ paid leave. There only 31.6% of managers are female.

Both, however, lag behind the United States, which has no statutory paid leave. To qualify for 12 weeks off without wages, they need to work in the public sector or for a firm that has at least 50 other employees within a 75-mile radius. American women occupy 42.7% of the top posts in their country.

Australia is the only other developed country that has no paid maternity leave, although women will be paid 18 weeks of the federal minimum wage from January 2011. Its women occupy 37.1% of managerial jobs.

The study from the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, is entitled Why Are There So Few Top Female Executives in Egalitarian Welfare States? It says women in Anglo-Saxon countries where maternal leave is less generous climb higher up the career ladder than in Scandinavian nations where years of female-friendly legislation may have inadvertently disadvantaged women.

Blindingly obvious when you think about it.

If the gender pay gap/glass ceiling is a result of the deterioration of human capital by taking years out of the workforce then those places where women take more years out of the workforce will have bigger such problems, won\’t they?

Our second lesson from economics: there are always trade offs.

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