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published: 05 Mar 2024 in People & relations

Women in Poland. In-depth insight into (in)equality

Kamila Brzezińska
Kamila Brzezińska


With the 8th of March and Women’s Day around the corner, let’s delve into the data to attempt to answer the question: what’s up with the socio-economic equality for women in Poland?

Women have been putting the force in the word workforce for years. However, even in the 21st century, female employees often face unequal treatment and unique challenges in their respective professions.

The European Commission lists four main problems related to the situation of women in the labor market:

  1. Lower participation in the labor market than men.
  2. Fewer career opportunities than men.
  3. Wage gap: on average, women earn less than men.
  4. Uneven distribution of women and men in different sectors of the economy.

In the article below, we will look into all four of the above aspects of the issue, based on the 2023 report by the Polish Institute of Economics (pl. Polski Instytut Ekonomiczny.)

Women as a workforce

7,4 million – women were employed in Poland in 2022,
66,1% – this is the labor force participation rate for women aged 15-64 in 2021,
3,4 % – was the unemployment rate for women aged 15-64 in 2021.

With 66,1 percent of women aged 15-64 employed, Poland’s rate of female employment is moderate when we compare it with our European Union neighbors.

On the one hand, this result is higher than the EU average. In some countries, like Greece or Italy, less than 50 percent of women are employed.

On the other hand, Poland is still far from the leader in this area, such as Iceland or the Netherlands, where 77 percent of women are active professionally.

Women's unemployment, however, is not currently a major problem for the labor market in Poland. It has been a positive shift from the situation until 2013: at its highest point, the unemployment rate for women aged 15-64 was 11.2 percent. The year 2014 marks the start of a gradual decline in female unemployment, which in 2021 reached 3.4 percent, so relatively low.

Career opportunities: Women in leadership roles

43% – The share of women in leadership positions in 2021,
24% – The share of women on the boards of the largest companies in the second half of 2022,
32% – The share of women among the self-employed in 2021.

Since it is almost impossible to make a numerical evaluation of such a vast concept as career opportunities, as a sign of career advancement the report considers the following factors:

  • holding management positions,
  • sitting on the boards of listed companies,
  • owning one's own company.

The data indicates that women are underrepresented in managerial positions throughout the European Union.

But in Poland, this disproportion is relatively small – the participation of women managers in the country is 43 percent (same as in Sweden). Only Lativa had a higher result in the EU (46 percent), while on average, the share of women managers in the EU is 35 percent. In some countries, like Cyprus and Luxembourg, this rate doesn’t even exceed 25 percent.

Wage gap

4,5% – The difference between the average earnings of men and women in 2020,
10,4% – The difference between men's and women's average wages when working in similar positions in 2020.

When it comes to gender inequality in the workplace, there is one chief problem that seems to be constant all over the world – the wage gap.

The wage gap is the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of men and women, expressed as a percentage of men's average gross hourly earnings. Women earn less than men in all European Countries. The wage gap In Poland is relatively low (4,5 percent in 2020), especially in comparison to the average value in the European Union (13 percent).

Many factors contribute to the fact that female workers on average earn less than their male counterparts, such as:

  • lower involvement of females in professional life: this can be linked to the unequal distribution of domestic and caregiving responsibilities,
  • the female workforce is in large part distributed in lower-paid occupations and business sectors,
  • discrimination against women,
  • lower negotiating skills or abilities,
  • and, most importantly, lack of pay transparency.


50% – of women aged 25-34 had a college degree in 2021,
53 – Number of women per 100 men in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields of study,
19 – The number of female students per 100 male students in IT majors.

When it comes to education in Poland, the greatest underrepresentation of women at universities is in IT, as well as industrial and construction technology:

  • 19 women for every 100 men studying IT-related majors. The EU average is 24 females on 100 males,
  • 53 women for every 100 men studying technical majors. The EU average is 37 females on 100 males.

This is a trend visible in the entire European Union. However, there are also certain fields with a large overrepresentation of women. Such an example would be employment in education, where on average there are:

  • 546 women per 100 men working in education in Poland,
  • 365 women per 100 men employed in education in the EU.

Gender distribution in different economic sectors

To some degree, the difference in concentration of males and females in various sectors of the economy is natural. It can be caused by different preferences or predispositions, but there are valid reasons to believe that such uneven distribution can be something of a self-propelling machine. Certain branches of the economy, such as construction or technology, mostly employ men. Therefore they may offer few opportunities for females who wish to work in this area of expertise. This can be especially problematic, as those sectors tend to be tied to higher social prestige and earning potential.

According to the data, the most masculinized sectors are:

  • construction,
  • mining,
  • transportation.

From another side of the spectrum, the most feminized sectors are:

  • health care,
  • education,
  • other services.


Polski Instytut Ekonomiczny – “Sytuacja kobiet w Polsce z perspektywy społeczno-ekonomicznej”

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