Workplaces with equal mix of men and women happiest: economist

Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:52am EDT
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By Lisa Anderson

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A more equal mix of men and women in the workforce not only boosts national economies but also increases job satisfaction and performance in workplaces reflecting such a balance, experts said.

If the labor market were more gender-balanced, the potential increase in GDP for European Union countries would be an average of 20 to 25 percent, Asa Lofstrom, a professor at Sweden's Umea School of Business and Economics, said during the U.N. 59th Commission on the Status of Women which ends on Friday.

A more balanced workforce also reduces poverty among women and children and increases economic independence for both men and women, she said at a panel hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality.

Greater job satisfaction and higher productivity are additional benefits, according to recent research presented by Katrin Olafsdottir, a professor at Iceland's Reykjavik University.

"Not only do men and women feel better when working together, but they also seem to perform better," she said.

In a survey of 1,000 men and women, Olafsdottir found those working in gender-balanced groups scored highest in both job satisfaction and productivity, including less absenteeism and turnover, compared to those in settings dominated by females or males.

The challenge for many countries is to get more women to enter the workforce and stay there, the panel said.

It is a prospect that can be stymied, even in strong economies, by factors including inadequate skills and lack of quality and affordable care for children and the elderly, as well as by traditional attitudes and discrimination, Lofstrom said.   Continued...

Employees work along a production line in Suzhou Etron Electronics Co. Ltd's factory in Suzhou, Jiangsu province in this June 8, 2010 file photo.   REUTERS/Aly Song/Files