Volume 45, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0272-2690
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9889
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Language gender differences at work have been widely described though hardly measured. The object of this study is whether there are gender differences in the use of language skills at work and what those differences are. A gender gap measure of linguistic skills used at work is presented and computed for 21 countries using data from the first round of the Survey of Adult Skills ( = 109 695). On the basis of the 21st-century literacy needs at work approach, we compound five one-skill indicators: use of oral skills, use of reading skills, use of writing skills, use of numeracy skills, and use of ICT skills. Gender differences are quantified in relative terms controlling for occupations’ gross categories. We provide a piece of evidence for a language gender gap at work in favor of men for all language skills analyzed; there are, however, differences by country and occupational categories.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Acemoglu, D., Autor, D. H., Lyle, D.
    (2002) Women, War, and Wages: the Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century. NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES, No.9013. RetrievedJanuary 2020, from: piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/Acemogluetal2002.pdf. 10.3386/w9013
    https://doi.org/10.3386/w9013 [Google Scholar]
  2. Allen, J., van der Velden, R., Helmschrott, S., Martin, S., Massing, N., Zabal, A., Von Davier, M.
    (2016) The Development of the PIAAC Background Questionnaires. InOECD (Ed.) Technical Report of the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2nd Edition). (pp.1–48). Pre-publication copy. OECD Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Anderson, D. A., Vinnicombe, S.
    (2015) Senior Women, Work-Life Balance and the Decision to Quit: A Generational Perspective. InA. M. Broadbridge, S. L. Fielden (Eds.) Handbook of Gendered Careers in Management: Getting In, Getting On, Getting Out. (pp.445–459). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. 10.4337/9781782547709.00037
    https://doi.org/10.4337/9781782547709.00037 [Google Scholar]
  4. Andreano, J. M., Cahill, L.
    (2009) Sex influences on the neurobiology of learning and memory. Learn Mem, 16, 248–266.   10.1101/lm.918309
    https://doi.org/10.1101/lm.918309 [Google Scholar]
  5. Azmat, G., Petrongolo, B.
    (2014) Gender and the labor market: What have we learned from field and lab experiments?. Labour Economics, 30, 32–40.   10.1016/j.labeco.2014.06.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2014.06.005 [Google Scholar]
  6. Baxter, J.
    (2008) Is It All Tough Talking at the Top? A Post-Structuralist Analysis of the Construction of Gendered Speaker Identities of British Business Leaders within Interview Narratives. Gender and Language, 2, 197–222.   10.1558/genl.v2i2.197
    https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v2i2.197 [Google Scholar]
  7. (2014) Double Voicing at Work: Power, Gender and Linguistic Expertise. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9781137348531
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137348531 [Google Scholar]
  8. (2017) Gender, Language, and Leadership: Enabling Women Leaders. InB. Vine (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace. (pp.401–412). Routledge, New York. 10.4324/9781315690001‑33
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315690001-33 [Google Scholar]
  9. Bedard, K., Cho, I.
    (2010) Early gender test score gaps across OECD countries. Economics of Education Review, 29, 348–363. 10.1016/j.econedurev.2009.10.015
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2009.10.015 [Google Scholar]
  10. Black, S., Spitz-Oener, A.
    (2010) Explaining Women’s Success: Technological Change and the Skill Content of Women’s Work. Review of Economics and Statistics, 92, 187–194.   10.1162/rest.2009.11761
    https://doi.org/10.1162/rest.2009.11761 [Google Scholar]
  11. Blau, F. D., Kahn, L. M.
    (2017) The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations. Journal of Economic Literature, 55, 789–865.   10.1257/jel.20160995
    https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.20160995 [Google Scholar]
  12. Borgonvi, F., Choi, A., Paccagnella, M.
    (2018) The evolution of gender gaps in numeracy and literacy between childhood and adulthood. OECD Education Working Papers, No.184.   10.1787/0ff7ae72‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/0ff7ae72-en [Google Scholar]
  13. Christl, M., Köppl-Turyna, M.
    (2019) Gender wage gap and the role of skills and tasks: evidence from the Austrian PIAAC data set. Applied Economics, 52, 113–134.   10.1080/00036846.2019.1630707
    https://doi.org/10.1080/00036846.2019.1630707 [Google Scholar]
  14. Corbella, T.
    (2021) Desarrollo de un indicador de uso del lenguaje en el puesto de trabajo basado en cuantiles aplicado a datos del PIAAC: implicaciones sobre las desigualdades de género. InVidal-Suñe, A., & Alarcón, A., (Eds.) Ocupaciones y lenguaje. Indicadores y análisis de competencias lingüísticas en el ámbito laboral. (pp.395–414). Publicacions URV, Tarragona.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Eagly, A. H., Carli, L. L.
    (2007) Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. EIGE
    EIGE (2020) Gender Equality Index Report for 2020. Digitalisation and the future of work. RetrievedOctober 2020, fromhttps://eige.europa.eu/publications/gender-equality-index-2020-digitalisation-and-future-work
  17. Ellis, L., Hershberger, S., Field, E., Wersinger, S., Pellis, S., Geary, D.,
    (2008) Sex differences: Summarizing more than a century of scientific research. New York: Psychology Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. European Commission
    European Commission (2018) Council recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning [COM (2018) 24final; 2018/C 189/01], 22May 2018 Brussels: European Commission.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. European Commission
    European Commission (2019) Report on equality between women and men in the EU. RetrievedOctober 2020, from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/aid_development_cooperation_fundamental_rights/annual_report_ge_2019_en.pd
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Greco, S., Ishizaka, A., Tasiou, M., Torrisi, G.
    (2019) On the Methodological Framework of Composite Indices: A Review of the Issues of Weighting, Aggregation and Robustness. Social Indicators Research, 141, 61–94.   10.1007/s11205‑017‑1832‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-017-1832-9 [Google Scholar]
  21. Guiso, L., Monte, F., Sapienza, P., Zingales, L.
    (2008) Culture, Gender, and Math. Science, 320, 164–165.   10.1126/science.1154094
    https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1154094 [Google Scholar]
  22. Hanushek, E. A., Schwerdt, G., Wiederhold, S., Woessmann, L.
    (2015) Returns to Skills around the World: Evidence from PIAAC. European Economic Review, 73, 103–130.   10.1016/j.euroecorev.2014.10.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2014.10.006 [Google Scholar]
  23. Hanushek, E. A., Woessmann, L.
    (2008) The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development. Journal of Economic Literature, 46, 607–688.   10.1257/jel.46.3.607
    https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.46.3.607 [Google Scholar]
  24. Holmes, J., Stubbe, M.
    (2003) “Feminine” Workplaces: Stereotype and Reality. InJ. Holmes, & M. Meyerhoff (Eds.) The Handbook of Language and Gender. (pp.572–599). Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Hoboken. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470756942.ch25. 10.1002/9780470756942.ch25
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470756942.ch25 [Google Scholar]
  25. Hyde, J., Mertz, J.
    (2009) Gender, culture, and mathematics performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 8801–8807.   10.1073/pnas.0901265106
    https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0901265106 [Google Scholar]
  26. Joseph, R.
    (2000) The evolution of sex differences in language, sexuality, and visual–spatial skills. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 35–66.   10.1023/A:1001834404611
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1001834404611 [Google Scholar]
  27. Kimura, D.
    (2007) Underrepresentation or misrepresentation?InW. M. Williams, S. J. Ceci (Eds.) Why aren’t more women in science?Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 10.1037/11546‑003
    https://doi.org/10.1037/11546-003 [Google Scholar]
  28. Lakoff, R.
    (1973) Language and Woman’s Place. Language in Society, 2, 45–80. 10.1017/S0047404500000051
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500000051 [Google Scholar]
  29. (2003) Language, gender, and politics: Putting “women” and “power” in the same sentence. InJ. Holmes, M. Meyerhoff (Eds.) The handbook of language and gender. (pp.160–178). Blackwell Publishing.   10.1002/9780470756942.ch7
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470756942.ch7 [Google Scholar]
  30. Leschke, J., Watt, A.
    (2014) Challenges in Constructing a Multi-dimensional European Job Quality Index. Social Indicators Research, 118, 1–31.   10.1007/s11205‑013‑0405‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0405-9 [Google Scholar]
  31. Lindemann, D. J.
    (2015) Gender and Numeracy Skill Use: Cross-National Revelations from PIAAC. PIAAC Commissioned Paper. RetrievedJanuary 2020, from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51bb74b8e4b0139570ddf020/t/54da75e1e4b02b7088614c36/1423603169721/Lindemann_PIAAC.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  32. McElhinny, B.
    (2003) Fearful, Forceful Agents of the Law: Ideologies about Language and Gender in Police Officers’ Narratives about the Use of Physical Force. Pragmatics, 13, 253–284.   10.1075/prag.13.2.03elh
    https://doi.org/10.1075/prag.13.2.03elh [Google Scholar]
  33. Muhr, S.
    (2011) Caught in the Gendered Machine: On the Masculine and Feminine in Cyborg Leadership. Gender, Work and Organization, 18, 337–357.   10.1111/j.1468‑0432.2010.00529.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0432.2010.00529.x [Google Scholar]
  34. Mullany, L.
    (2007) Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 10.1057/9780230592902
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230592902 [Google Scholar]
  35. Mullany, L., Yoong, M.
    (2018) Gender and the Workplace. InB. Vine (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace. (pp.311–322). Routledge, New York.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. OECD
    OECD (2010) PIAAC Background Questionnaire MS version 2.1 d.d. 15-12-2012. RetrievedMay 2019, from: www.oecd.org/education/48442549.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  37. OECD
    OECD (2012) Better skills, better jobs, better lives: a strategic approach to skills policies. Paris: OECD Publishing. 10.1787/9789264177338‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264177338-en [Google Scholar]
  38. OECD
    OECD (2013) The Survey of Adults Skills. Reader’s Companion. Paris: OECD Publishing. 10.1787/9789264204027‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264204027-en [Google Scholar]
  39. OECD
    OECD (2014) PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can Do. Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science, Volume 1. Paris: OECD Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. OECD
    OECD (2015a) Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Education. Paris: OECD Publishing. 10.1787/9789264226159‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264226159-en [Google Scholar]
  41. OECD
    OECD (2015b) The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence. Paris: OECD Publishing. 10.1787/9789264229945‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264229945-en [Google Scholar]
  42. OECD
    OECD (2019) Skills Matter: Additional Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. OECD Skills Studies. Paris: OECD Publishing. 10.1787/1f029d8f‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/1f029d8f-en [Google Scholar]
  43. Olivetti, C., Petrongolo, B.
    (2008) Unequal pay or unequal employment? A cross country analysis of gender gaps. Journal of Labor Economics, 26, 621–654.   10.1086/589458
    https://doi.org/10.1086/589458 [Google Scholar]
  44. Paccagnella, M.
    (2016) Age, Ageing and Skills: Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. OECD Education Working Papers, No.132.   10.1787/5jm0q1n38lvc‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/5jm0q1n38lvc-en [Google Scholar]
  45. Petrongolo, B., Ronchi, M.
    (2020) Gender Gaps and the Structure of Local Labor Markets. Labour Economics, 64.   10.1016/j.labeco.2020.101819
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2020.101819 [Google Scholar]
  46. Quintini, G.
    (2014) Skills at Work: How Skills and their Use Matter in the Labour Market. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No.158.   10.1787/5jz44fdfjm7j‑en
    https://doi.org/10.1787/5jz44fdfjm7j-en [Google Scholar]
  47. Scheuringer, A., Wittig, R., Pletzer, B.
    (2017) Sex differences in verbal fluency: The role of strategies and instructions. Cognitive Processing, 18, 407–417. 10.1007/s10339‑017‑0801‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10339-017-0801-1 [Google Scholar]
  48. Shaw, S.
    (2006) Governed by Rules?: The Female Voice in Parliamentary Debates. InJ. Baxter (Ed.) Speaking Out: The Female Voice in Public Contexts. (pp.81–102). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. 10.1057/9780230522435_5
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230522435_5 [Google Scholar]
  49. Tannen, D.
    (1990) You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: William Morrow.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. UN Women
    UN Women (2019, June). Facts, and figures: Leadership and political participation. RetrievedOctober 2020from: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures
  51. Von Davier, M., Weeks, J., Chen, H., Allen, J., Van Der Velden, R.
    (2013) Creating Simple and Complex Derived Variables and Validation of Background Questionnaire Data. InOECD (Ed.) Technical Report of the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Pre-publication copy. (pp.1–21). Paris: OECD Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Weatherall, A.
    (2002) Gender, language and discourse. Women and Psychology. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Weiss, E. M., Kemmler, G., Deisenhammer, E. A., Fleischhacker, W. W., Delazer, M.
    (2003) Sex differences in cognitive functions. Personal Individual Differences, 35, 863–875.   10.1016/S0191‑8869(02)00288‑X
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00288-X [Google Scholar]
  54. Wilson, J., Boxer, D.
    (2015) Discourse, Politics and Women as Global Leaders. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/dapsac.63
    https://doi.org/10.1075/dapsac.63 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): adult language skills; gender gap; workplace
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error