July 2017

Image: © Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

New research identifies the impact of gender and family in the global language services industry

Results of a survey by independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory reveal that the language industry is above average with respect to gender equality, but also points out structural obstacles that women may face in their careers.

Issues related to gender, the workplace, and family are among the most important social and political concerns today. Language services – translation, localization, interpreting, and related tasks – are frequently seen as a female-dominated profession, but little data has been available to compare with other industries. The data from this research separates perception from reality.

Gender and Family in the Language Services Industry is the first in a series of reports by independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research) dealing with gender and family issues among those who are employed in the language industry or who work with language services. It covers level issues concerning men’s and women’s experience with the workplace and family/work-life balance. This research gives language services industry companies the data they need to benchmark how they are doing with regard to gender and family issues in the workplace, a topic that can be vital when seeking to find and retain top-caliber talent.

Earnings Reports

Economic studies show that jobs considered “women’s work” typically show lower pay than those associated with men, and that wages fall as more women enter a field. By contrast, both genders earn above-average wages in language services: US$50,900 in North America and $34,800 in Europe (versus economy-wide averages of US$49,630 and roughly US$20,000, respectively).

"These results are generally positive. Despite significant downward price pressures, language services professionals' earnings are in line with – or exceed – those of other skilled professionals, without the penalty often associated with 'women's work,'" comments Arle Lommel, a senior analyst at CSA Research.

Key Findings and Dataset

Based on 2,200 global responses, the CSA Research report shines light on topics ranging from pay to personality to promotions. Key findings from the report, which is available for free with registration, include:

  • Workers involved with language services are overwhelmingly female. A large majority (70 percent) of respondents were women. Even allowing for bias in respondents to a survey about gender issues, it is evident that women are attracted to the industry.
  • Men are overrepresented in top positions. Roughly even numbers of men and women work in upper management, showing that men are proportionally more common in positions of authority and women are less likely to advance to top management positions. Men and women generally receive equal pay if they are in the same positions, but women are far less likely to reach the best-paying positions.
  • The world-wide language services gender pay gap is 19 percent. Adjusting for employment status, men still make 14 percent more than women. Earning disparities are highest in top and middle management and executive positions, even though CSA Research has found that language service providers helmed by women are more productive and profitable than those with male CEOs. However, women earn more than men in team leadership and non-executive senior management positions.
  • The gender gap is lowest in North America, but higher in Europe. However, Europeans believe they are closer to pay equality than others and Americans believe their employers are less equitable than others.
  • Men believe that earnings are based on merit, but women believe men make more money for the same work. Overall, 79 percent of men believe men and women receive equal pay for equal work in their organization, versus 34 percent of women. Very small numbers believe that women earn more. Similarly, 68 percent of men believe women have equal opportunities for advancement, but only half of women do.
  • Men are slightly more likely to support families. They are more likely to have children while working and to be employed full-time to support them. However, women are more likely to sacrifice their careers to care for family.
  • Men can have their cake and eat it too. Women are much more likely to find that their gender or having children limit their career options than do men. At the same time, men are half as likely as women to delay major life events because of their career. They are also 30 percent more likely to have worked full-time while children were growing up.
  • Majorities believe that gender issues do not affect them personally. Women are more likely to believe they have been personally affected, but both men and women, tend to see gender issues as important problems that affect other people. Employers’ beliefs about how they affect their workers mirror that of the employees themselves.
  • Both men and women see women as having more positive qualities as employees. Respondents of both genders tend to agree that women have more positive qualities – including those important for leadership roles – than men do. Nevertheless, these qualities do not convert into advancement opportunities.
  • Women are more likely to prefer legal remedies to gender issues. When asked about legal remedies to gender imbalance issues, women were generally in favor of all of them, and men were in favor of all but three that related to mandating gender balance in hiring decisions.

"The global language industry is frequently considered to be female-dominated. Our results confirm this perception. However, despite the fact that language professionals tend to be female, a male employee is almost twice as likely to have an upper managerial (including executive) position than a woman is. The results of the CSA Research Survey on Gender and Family in the Language Services Industry are a mixture of positive and negative. In many ways, the industry is above average with respect to gender equality, but it also points out the structural obstacles that women may face in their careers," adds Lommel.

To download the full report, visit commonsenseadvisory.com