In the Netherlands women hold fewer top positions than men. Moreover the distribution of top jobs across men and women seems to correlate with preferences for full-time and part-time work1: women work more often in part-time jobs and might, supposedly, get off track to a top position. That is one explanation, but there are more.

Causation, causation

Another explanation is that women choose differently, given discrimination. If the odds of getting a top job are lower for women with equal talent, it will lead to a lower propensity to take up full-time work. Under discrimination the cost-benefit balance is different for women, and hence their choices differ from men. Different outcomes for men and women when choosing between full-time and part-time work, can actually support the notion of (perceived) discrimination against women.

To see how this works, in a stylized way, you can use the model beneath.2


Some lessons from the model, given its assumptions:

  • Under discrimination roughly two things happen:
    1. women decide to work part-time more often, and
    2. comparatively fewer women move on from full-time jobs to top positions.
  • The less rewarding the top position compared to either the benefit of part-time work or the number of available top positions, the less people are inclined to work full-time.
  • There is interaction between rewards and discrimination against women. Under discrimination:
    • pushing for lower rewards for top positions drives women out;
    • pushing for higher rewards for part-time work drives women out.