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In Milan, women earn less than men

Gender pay gap knows no bounds

In Milan, women earn less than men Gender pay gap knows no bounds

I arrived in Milan in 2017, to study. I came from a much smaller reality, and the big city was an exciting, beautiful challenge for me. For months, all I did was go to university and then to the cinema, concerts, and every exhibition I could find. I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities, by the variety of experiences that this city promised me at every corner. I lived in a privileged bubble where my only duties were to study and absorb all the stimuli. When I graduated, things changed rather abruptly. I discovered very early on that the cost of living was increasing along with rents and showed no signs of stopping, that finding a job with security was very complicated, that young professionals (at least in some fields) felt almost obliged to become freelancers with VAT numbers, which entailed considerable expenses. In recent years, Milan, considered a city of opportunities, has become a negative case study and now, living here is a sacrifice, a compromise, something that is increasingly difficult to justify, especially for women.

Gender Pay Gap Worldwide

That women earn less than men, unfortunately, is not news. It's a practically universal phenomenon worldwide. There have been slow improvements in the last 10 years, but the European directive for wage equality (which includes a ban on gender discrimination) became official only in May 2023. Consequently, in the European Union, women earn on average 13% less than their male counterparts. According to the CGIL, in Italy, only 18% of managerial positions are held by women. And don't make the mistake of thinking it's only for jobs commonly considered lowly or less prestigious: it's true in a lot of sectors, including the academic world. According to ISTAT, in 2020, the average salary for a man in Milan was about €43,400. For women, it was around €34,500.

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The Situation in Milan and Lombardy

While global, European, and Italian data are relatively straightforward to obtain, for the city of Milan specifically, things become more complicated. According to Dossier, which has analyzed data from various professional associations and orders - including psychologists, accountants, lawyers, biologists, and nurses - and has gathered testimonies from young professional women working in Milan, however, the problem persists, even in the city of opportunities, often depicted as modern, perfect, and ahead of the rest of Italy. The latest AdEPP report, which brings together these associations, confirms and endorses the data: a man aged between 30 and 40 earns €20,000 gross, a woman €17,000. Women in Lombardy earn 14% less than men annually. The differences are not limited to wages but also extend to types of contracts. Women are more often employed part-time than men, which lowers their incomes, prevents them from accessing higher positions, and hinders their career progression. And if things are even worse elsewhere in Italy, this does not mean that what happens in Milan is justified or acceptable.

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What Contributes to this Disparity?

The first thing that comes to mind, considering, for example, the differences in contractual classification between men and women, is the patriarchal legacy that sees women as the primary or almost sole caretakers of the home and children, forced to sacrifice their careers for the family. Not only that. Many women experience harassment and discrimination at work, are fired when pregnant, endure sexist remarks during interviews, and even after hiring. According to data collected by Fondazione Libellula in 2022, 47% of women in management positions have experienced unwanted contact in the workplace. The figure rises to 54% for entrepreneurs. With these premises, is it surprising that women work and earn less?

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What Can We Do?

A good practice - especially when working in private companies - might be to ask male colleagues how much they earn. A work environment where compensation is discussed freely promotes wage equality. Reporting inequalities, improper behavior, shedding light on differences in treatment, then, helps raise awareness of the issue, encouraging other working women to rebel, to seek better, to speak up. Furthermore, we should separate the image of women from that of the angel in the house and demand, sometimes, sacrifices from men for the sake of the family. The concept of family itself should be modified, along with that of society. A profound change, touching upon the foundations of patriarchy, would necessarily reflect on work, the gender pay gap, and differences in employment rates. One step at a time.