Still a Distant Dream

On Gender Pay Gap

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During a women’s football championship in brazil, the scoreboard showed 0.8 instead of 1 after the first goal, to highlight research proving that women earn 20% less than men for the same work. Equal Pay Day was on March 31st, but we don’t blame you for missing it as the world was slipping into the grips of a global pandemic at that time.

We’ve come a long way from letters to iMessage, from black and white television to 4D movies and from bullock carts to autorun Tesla’s. But how far have come in terms of gender equality? How far are we from Equal Pay?

(Source: The Guardian)

According to the International Labour Organisation, the gender pay gap is the difference in average wages between all women and all men who are engaged in paid employment. This is often used as an indicator of gender equality in the world of work and is also used to monitor progress towards equality at the national or international level.

A survey by Monreported that nearly 60% of working women in India face discrimination at work and over one-third of women believe that they are not easily considered for top management roles.

As per the Gender Gap Index 2020, India has slipped to the 112th position and ranks 149th in economic participation and 117th in wage equality for similar work. According to reports, it will take India close to 100 years to bridge the gap in areas of politics, economy, health, and education. What is more problematic is that as India has advanced as an economy, the participation of women in India’s labor force has reduced. The female labor force participation in India has fallen to 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005, amid lack of access to quality education and underlying social, economic barriers limiting the opportunities for women, says a Deloitte report.  

Any discussion around the gender pay gap would be incomplete without talking about the contributions of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the fight for equal wages for women. Even though actual progress came long after the majority of her colleagues on the Supreme Court ruled against her in the Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Case (and some might argue that we’re still waiting for her vision to come to fruition).

“The myth that women are inherently disqualified for full participation in public life as independent persons is no longer acceptable. Yet this Court's silence has deferred recognition by the law that women are full persons, entitled as men are to due process guarantees and the equal protection of the laws. The time to break the vicious cycle which sex discriminatory laws create is overdue” reads the reply brief Ginsburg co-wrote.

Why Are We Concerned?

At a first glance, the gender wage gap might look like the average difference between the earnings of men and women (an issue predominantly related to earnings). However, there are several layers within this issue, since it takes into account ALL employed women, there are multiple reasons why this gap is wide-ranging from discrimination in enrollment to educational institutions to motherhood.

In India, this gap is exacerbated by the social and cultural oppression women face, especially the skewed sex ratio in labor participation. There is a common perception that the world belongs to the men, while women belong at home, a general sexist stereotype that women will not perform well in leadership positions, due to their commitments to their family or household.

According to a survey by Monster Salary Index, around 46% of women believe that there is a perception that they will quit after maternity leave. 

According to Sucheta Nadkarni, the director of Wom+Men’s Leadership Centre said, “Whether it is because women are getting paid less for the work that they are doing or because women are not getting equal opportunities to get into positions where the pay level is high – it doesn’t matter what the reason is, but there is a gender pay gap and in most cases, it’s an issue of equality and justice. In both cases, it’s an issue of an imbalance of some sort.”

The “Maternal Wall” and Its Impact

While some women stand nose pressed against the glass ceiling, many working mothers never get near it. What stops them? The maternal wall, where mothers are concerned, coworkers, and bosses often perceive a trade-off between warmth and competence.

When a childless mother is not in the office, she is presumed to be on business. However, an absent mother is often thought to be grappling with child care. Managers and coworkers may mentally cloak pregnant women and new mothers in a haze of femininity, assuming they will be empathetic, emotional, gentle, nonaggressive—that is, not very good at business. And if they prove them wrong, and shine through this haze remaining tough, cool, emphatic, and committed to their job, colleagues often indict them for being insufficiently maternal.

In November 2019, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its annual Global Gender Gap Report 2020 that revealed, women overall may have to wait 250 years to achieve economic parity.

The “motherhood penalty,” the tendency for women with children to receive systematically lower pay has stubbornly persisted, suggesting that the gender pay gap is not going away anytime soon and even several economists like Claudia Goldin support this conclusion.

(Source: Harvard Business Review)

Is It the Same Across Sectors?

While the gap is measurable in the organized sector like IT, Healthcare, etc the unorganized sector routinely underpays women. A general assumption is made, that women laborers as compared to men have low skills, a lack of access to on-the-job training, and responsibilities of the family which leads to them getting lesser opportunities of employment and being paid less on the job. This male-dominated sector that identifies only men as the primary earners, is rife with sexual harassment, discrimination, and payment of lower wages to women regularly.

(Source: International Labour Organisation)

Has the pandemic affected women’s earnings?

PayScale recently looked at the impact of the Coronavirus on the gender wage gap on occupations most vulnerable to financial risk. For example women elementary school teachers and flight attendants make $0.92 for every $1 a man makes when all compensable factors are controlled. These occupations are currently under threat of furloughs, unpaid time off, or layoffs given school closures and travel bans to flatten the curve during the pandemic. Women make a great percentage of the labor force in occupations such as community and social services, education, library and training, etc and all these occupations are likely to suffer in this time of economic uncertainty. 

The Gender Pay Gap can also be felt among healthcare practitioners. Female family doctors (GPs) make $0.94 for every $1 a male family doctor makes. Meanwhile, nurses – which are 90 percent female – make $0.98 to every $1 a male nurse makes. Again, this is when all compensable factors are controlled, meaning that there is no discernible reason for the differences in compensation other than gender.

What Is the Next Step Forward?

While addressing this issue, we must realize this isn’t a short-term or something you can do just once. However, there are steps companies can take right away to ensure their organization is proactive and intentional about correcting gender pay and other forms of disparities.

They must conduct a review of the compensation packages for employees, evaluating and adjusting for specific responsibilities of the job and qualification of each employee (i.e. all relevant factors that influence compensation from years of experience to specialized skills). If any gender pay disparity is identified, by using real-time market data for the labor market they must determine the correct pay for that employee and adjust accordingly. Transparency leads to equality, a more transparent approach to discussing pay with your employees helps them gain trust in the organization.

Make sure you pay equally for equal work!


Aanya Wig is a B.A. (Hons.) History student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. She is currently working as the Campus Coordinator with The Jurni, a London-based Travel and Culture Magazine, and has previously worked as a journalist with The Quint. She is also the founder of Aghaaz & Girl Up Rise, two student-led social entrepreneurship projects to empower women.