This article provides a summary of the results from a cross-national comparative project analysing gender differences and inequalities at labour market entry. Women’s relative gains in educational attainment and the expansion of the service sector suggest that gender inequalities in occupational returns are diminishing or even reversing. In assessing gender differences at labour market entry across a larger set of countries, we concentrated on a phase of the life course when women’s family roles are still of minor importance. Conceptually we distinguish between horizontal segregation and inequalities in vertical outcomes. Our research design was based on two cross-national comparative and 13 in-depth case studies analysing countries with different institutional, socio-economic and cultural settings — including Eastern European Countries and Russia. Our findings demonstrate that occupational gender segregation is still relatively marked among recent cohorts, even though slightly reducing over time in several countries. Studying vertical gender inequalities, we found that while in most countries women enter more prestigious jobs than men, there is a female disadvantage in economic returns among recent labour market entrants. Overall, when putting together findings from our various country studies, we concluded that women’s outcomes in first jobs did not improve as they could have given the large upgrades in female education. In addition, our results on labour market entry challenge the conventional wisdom about gender equality across welfare regimes.

Keywords: gender inequalities, labour market entry, educational attainment, occupational gender segregation, life course research, comparative research, Eastern Europe, Russia