What we need to know about the ‘Widening Gender Pay Gap’

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By Ruchi Sharma

All the hard working ladies here will agree that we women have an ability to contribute 200% to any work we do. Be it housework, taking care of kids or working at an office, we believe in excelling in everything. This doesn’t mean that guys don’t work as hard as we do. We just want to say that girls have a Ph.D. in multitasking since birth. We know how to balance everything. The responsibilities on a girl’s shoulder are always multifold as compared to guys and as working women we only demand to be at the same par with our male colleagues. Sadly, that’s not the case as far as monetary remuneration is concerned. The problems of unequal pay and gender pay gap exist all over the world. It’s not really fair to be subjected to gender bias in terms of remuneration when we do our work with full zest and efforts, right? Since many of us are not aware of these issues, we are giving you a little glimpse of the situation with the hope that very soon this would become a part of history!

Gender Pay Gap vs Unequal Pay

Though we may all confuse thinking both to be the same, there exists a difference as unequal pay refers to getting different remuneration for the same job being done by males and females. While the Gender Pay Gap is a much broader term and is a measure of a gap in overall earnings of men and women. It further bifurcates into an adjusted pay gap and an unadjusted pay gap. The former considers the difference in education, experience etc. But the latter is simply a difference between mean and median wages of males and females. Mostly all figures consider the unadjusted pay gap when they talk about the gender pay gap. In simple terms, when we compare the average salaries being received by the female workforce and the male workforce, the skewed difference is what refers to the gender pay gap. While unequal pay refers to the situation wherein women are paid less than their male colleagues for the same level of work while having the same level of qualification. It’s both the issue of gender pay gap and unequal pay that’s a matter of concern. 

Some Facts and Figures

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report got some bad news as India slipped to 140th position amongst 156 countries. This report measures gender gap on four parameters - economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. We already know that females are quite underrepresented at higher job positions in our country. But what is shocking is that Gender Gap exists all over the world. In fact, the data showed that it would take more than 135 years to bridge this gap worldwide. Of course, the pandemic has also affected more women than men, which is also one of the reasons for this widening gap. In the pay context, this report highlighted the declined female labour force participation rate in India, especially the share of women in technical roles declined to a new low in 2020. Of course, that also meant that the average income earned by women declined as well, reducing the earned income of women to just 1/5th of that earned by men in India.

Some older reports also suggested that women are paid quite less as compared to men for performing the same job with the same qualifications. This is the case of unequal pay and it’s even worse than the gender pay gap since it's directly gender bias. The third annual survey titled ‘Women of India Inc.’ by Monster.com revealed that nearly 60% working women in India felt that there was a discrimination at work and one-third felt that often women are not easily considered for top management roles. 

Reasons

One reason for the Gender Pay Gap is lack of education. Though in the last few years, this educational gap has been bridged by quite a few points but the increase in women’s education did not translate into employment. Various reasons like early marriage, household responsibilities, child birth kept educated women away from taking active part in the workforce. The common beliefs in society that a married woman must not work outside home is also a contributor to this. The major share of unpaid work done by women is a testimony to this. 

Women are also limited by the type of jobs they do. It’s not very often we come across women CTOs and CFOs. They are stereotyped for some specific jobs with the majority of high paying jobs being labelled unofficially to be exclusive for men. This is another reason that the gender pay gap has widened since not many women are engaged in high paying jobs. Also, the gender pay gap noticeably widens as the level of skill increases. The lack of experience also contributes towards lesser women at higher job positions. 

Need for a Change

The main change that is required is in terms of mindset. Not only families, even women need to come out of their shell and have trust in themselves. If they work, they not only get financially empowered but also emotionally strong. The contribution of women in the labour force is considered a prerequisite for development of the nation. Women empowerment is incomplete without bridging the gender pay gap. This is impossible until we bring more women to the workforce. So, it’s a vicious cycle. This is true specially for rural women where some of them are not even allowed to go to a market, forget going to work.

Social security for women is also a must to encourage them to get employed. Their mobility is often hampered by security concerns. Women’s safety at work is a prerequisite. Steps have been already taken by the government in this regard. But it’s also the responsibility of the employers to ensure a safe working environment for all its employers. Providing safe travel options from work to home and vice versa also helps in a long way.

Having child care areas in the workplaces has brought a fundamental change for many women. Most women are hesitant to leave their toddlers at home while they go to work and knowing that their child is just a few rooms away safe and sound, gives them peace to work in a free and relaxed manner. This also increases productivity. The maternity laws are in place but the common myth that women are better home with their child after child birth needs to be eradicated from the mindset.

Financially independent women are more confident. They are secure about their future and can take better care of their family’s requirements, be it day to day necessities or even medical requirements. Every girl out there needs to be encouraged to take part in the workforce actively. Encouraging women entrepreneurship could also go a long way.

What women should do?

First and foremost, we should all not only take an active part in the workforce but encourage other girls out there to also become financially independent. Next step for pay parity is being aware of what is happening around you. Know the job description you are working at and the salary benchmarks for the same so that you can negotiate accordingly. 

We must all come together to bring about a change. It’s not only about the widening gender pay gap, it’s also about getting that respect and place in the society, where women are treated on par with men. Many companies have already stepped up efforts to treat all their employees equally. This is a welcome step and needs to be implemented everywhere. Getting financially independent is one step towards women empowerment and we believe that once all of us firmly decide to utilize the best of our potential in attaining a job, this gender pay gap would soon be a thing of history.

 

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