Study: glass ceiling thick as ever in Denmark

Armelle Delmelle
February 11th, 2022

This article is more than 1 year old.

Even in jobs traditionally dominated by women, men still have a much easier time ascending to management positions

Nurses and doctors

Nursing is one of the professions where men are the minority but still get the lion’s share of leadership positions (photo: RODNAE/ Pexels)

Men holding the advantage over women in the work environment isn’t a new phenomenon and there is still room for change.

A study from the University of Copenhagen conducted by associate professor Jan Thorhauge Frederiksen and with PhD student Simone Mejding Poulsen proves that men are still given lead opportunities more often than women.

The trend remains intact even in jobs that are traditionally considered ‘women’s jobs’, like being a nurse, social worker, pedagogue or a primary school teacher.

“We picked the four biggest welfare professions in Denmark and historically, these are professions with a majority of women practising them,” Poulsen told CPH Post newspaper.

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Over 40 years of research
The researchers used data from Danmarks Statistik relating to people who were trained for one of the four jobs mentioned above and who graduated in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010.

They then looked at their careers after five and ten years to see whether they had obtained a leadership position. That allowed them to observe potential changes in inequality over the period of 1980-2020.

And it has changed. For the worse.

This research points to the fact that men still enjoy a clear advantage over women – even when they are an absolute minority in a profession.

For instance, male public school teachers are six times as likely to secure management positions within the first five years after graduation compared to the female peers.

Another interesting finding is that women who graduated in 2010 have lower odds of landing leadership positions compared to women who graduated in 1980. And the inequality gap has widened further from 2010-2020.

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The glass ceiling as thick as ever
When asked about the glass ceiling, a term used to describe the social barrier preventing women from being promoted to top management jobs, Poulsen said “our research shows that men have much better odds of obtaining a leadership position, especially within the first five years after graduation. Men are put on a fast track to advanced positions due to gender norms and biases.”

“It also raises the questions of whether a majority of women in a profession means that the field is ‘female-dominated’,” said Poulsen.

According to Poulsen, the explanation could be that “there are some major changes in how welfare professionals are organised during the period we have studied”.

These changes include the implementation of new public management reforms throughout the 1990s and the structure reform of 2007.

“These reforms have brought about new ways of organising management within these professional fields,” said Poulsen.

The research results call for further studies, but for now, nothing is in the pipeline.


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