Additional certification and training courses can not only affect an employee’s pay grade and career, but their sense of control over their life. Employees who have ‘upgraded’ their professional knowledge and skills find it easier to manage problems both in their personal lives and in the workplace. However, the trend does not hold equally for men and women. A study by Natalia Karmaeva and Andrey Zakharov of the HSE Institute of Education shows that men reap more benefits than women.
Continuing education is becoming commonplace. It contributes to professional success by opening up new career prospects for employees and helping them qualify for pay increases. Conversely, Natalia Karmaeva and Andrey Zakharov note, a lack of additional training is associated with lower wages for older employees.
It is assumed that additional job-related training or certification—at the workplace, at a corporate university, or in special courses—helps increase human capital, i.e., knowledge and skills. It can increase the productivity of individual workers and the effectiveness of the company as a whole. However, the HSE researchers found that this is not always the case.
The relationship between additional training and labour productivity is ‘mediated by a social and gender hierarchy,’ the researchers write.
The positions in which workers find themselves vary (often even if the employees have equal credentials and levels of experience). Some workers are able to enter the primary labour market, where prestigious professions with decent wages and long-term employment dominate. Others, however, find themselves in a secondary market, characterized by precarious work, low salaries, and low employee qualifications.
‘Who gets what position is explained by gender, class, and race,’ the authors explain. ‘Jobs in the secondary labour market are less attractive than those in the primary labour market in terms of pay, the type of contract, career opportunities, and retraining.’ The economic return on additional training is also lower in the secondary labour market.
In addition, gender appears to influence how professional skills are perceived. ‘Women's’ skills, from diligence to communication skills, are less valued. Employers’ and colleagues’ perception of ‘male’ skills (leadership, physical endurance), on the other hand, is coloured by their attitudes of the holder of these skills.
A low sense of control, According to previous studies on Russia, correlates with traditional ideas of women about the distribution of roles in the family (i.e., the man is the breadwinner and a protector; the woman, as mother and wife, is in charge of domestic life). ‘In traditional culture, a sense of control is more likely a “male” trait,’ say Natalia Karmaeva and Andrey Zakharov.
The researchers used data from three waves (2009–2011) of the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey – HSE (RLMS-HSE), which measures economic wellbeing and health among the Russian population. The survey results reveal the effects of completing job-related training (JRT). The JRT effect was examined with regard to employees of both genders, aged 20-60. The researchers also considered employees’ professional affiliation, sector of employment (public or private), level of experience, the number of employees at their place of employment, and other factors.
Researchers were interested in one of the non-economic effects of JRT: subjective control, or an individual’s perceived ability to influence his or her professional or private life.
Until now, this non-economic implication of on-the-job training has remained poorly understood. It was only known that in Russia, reported subjective control for women is on average about 30% lower than for men. In other words, women believe that they are less able to influence circumstances in their lives.
Karmaeva and Zakharov’s study showed that additional training indeed increases individuals’ sense of subjective control. But this effect did not equalize the playing field between men and women: to the contrary, the effect is stronger for men than it is for women.
Subjective control is one of the personal resources that people rely on in difficult situations. It gives one a sense of confidence in one’s ability to manage challenges.
Subjective control helps one respond to and deal with events more effectively. For example, it helps one mobilize and come up with a solution rather than enter into conflict.
Self-confident employees usually work better and get along with people.
Researchers analysed the effects of employer-funded short-term courses, which aim to improve employees’ expertise and skills on the job. ‘This kind of training involves the acquisition of both specialized professional expertise and general skills,’ the researchers explain. General skills include, for example, self-control, the ability to work with information, and communication skills.
Both professional expertise and general skills (i.e., soft skills) can enhance one’s sense of control over one’s life. Moreover, through the ‘expansion of social support networks (friends, colleagues, relatives, etc.),’ it can also lead, both directly and indirectly, to ‘salary increases and more career opportunities,’ the authors explain.
The benefits of continued education are often unevenly distributed between different groups of workers. The researchers analysed how the completion of job-related training ‘exacerbates or mitigates gender disparities in subjective control’.
The analysis showed that professional training enhances perceived control among both men and women.
At the same time, discrepancies in the effects of JRT were found between genders.
‘Our analysis proves the significant impact of continuing education on subjective control, mainly for men,’ the researchers say. ‘The positive effect of JRT for men was 0.42 standard deviations.’ For women, however, the positive effect amounted to only half of that of men, with a total of 0.26.
These results correspond with those of foreign studies, in which women generally have less control over their life circumstances, despite the fact that many of them work, are financially independent, and, on average, have higher levels of education than their male counterparts.
In other words, though women receive the additional JRT bonuses of enhanced expertise and control skills, they are often unable to put them into practice.
Researchers explain this situation by the persistence of gender stereotypes and gender discrimination as well as masculine culture in the workplace and in society.
‘As a result, a woman's position in the labour market can reduce the positive impact of JRT on her sense of control,’ the researchers explain.
Women often do not see a return on improved expertise due to three factors:
1. In transitional economies, ‘the labour market becomes more unstable, and specific skills acquired through training are less important for individual success than in developed economies,’ the authors say. This results from the fact that, while specific human capital may be in demand at one enterprise, other enterprises may not show an interest in it. An unstable economic situation forces people to change jobs, and companies and firms to close. ‘Enterprises are not interested in developing specific human capital, and for employees, this human capital depreciates when they change jobs,’ Karmaeva and Zakharov say.
2. More powerful groups can control the distribution of economic benefits from additional training, such as the prevailing status quo of men in areas like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, for example. ‘Although the Soviet Union managed to encourage women to enrol in STEM disciplines, the percentage of women among STEM graduates in Russia today is not very high,’ the researchers note. In 2017, for every 100 male graduates in physics and mathematics, there were only 60 female graduates. In information science and energy, these numbers were even lower: for every 100 male graduates, there were about 25 and 20 female graduates, respectively.
According to some researchers, women were unable to pursue education in STEM fields because of the glass ceiling. The ceiling manifested itself in insufficient grant or scholarship support for women in these areas from the state as well as family and societal views of ‘female’ and ‘male’ professions.
3. The role of ‘patriarchal’ attitudes of Russian women themselves cannot be discounted either. Russian women often place less importance on professional success than other areas of their lives. This also reduces the positive effects of job-related training.
But it is possible that the problem simply lies in the quality of training.
The authors of the study suggest that the content or design of supplemental professional training courses do not allow women to develop their sense of subjective control to the same extent as men. Alternatively, it also could be that opportunities in labour market are so skewed in favour of men that job-related training simply does not enhance women’s success.