The Gender Wage Gap is a hot topic. Even though it has gained a great deal of mainstream media attention over the past few years, society is hardly at the brink of closing this formidable gap. It is a topic with multiple layers that all require to be picked apart and unpacked to get to the gist of the problem.
Why are women paid less than their male counterparts?
1. Unequal pay: this is the case where women are paid less than their male colleagues for doing and men doing work of equal value (that is, same, similar, interchangeable or even different work but of the same value).
According to International and most national laws, this is categorized as unfair treatment (discrimination) and is outlawed. (See: Uganda’s Employment Act as well the International Labour Organisations’ Equal Remuneration Convention) Countries have for a long time been called on to make sure all workers receive equal pay for the same work of equal value.
2. The Gender Wage Gap refers to the statistics that reveal that on average, male employees are getting paid higher wages than female employees across different sectors, industries etc.
This gap is not usually based on outright gender discrimination but is often a result of systems that are skewed to favour male employees given the predominant gender roles in society.
For instance, the Gender Wage Gap can be attributed to the responsibilities and expectations of women in their homes and families. Girls from a young age are often required to perform domestic chores early in the morning before heading to school and after they get back home (which affects their ability to perform at the same level as their male counterparts whose time is focused on schoolwork, play and homework).
When these young girls grow into women, they often continue these duties in their own homes, waking up early to perform domestic chores in the home and look after babies and little children and rushing home to do the same in the evening. The result is, as the author and policy analyst, Anne Marie Slaughter (the first woman to serve as the Director of Policy planning for the US State Department, serving under president Barack Obama) that women often suffer “the care penalty”. She explains in her book, “Unfinished Business”:
“If you take women who don’t have caregiving obligations, they’re almost equal with men. It’s somewhere in the 95 percent range. But when women then have children, or again are caring for their own parents or other sick family members who need care, then they need to work differently. They need to work flexibly, and often go part-time. They often get less-good assignments because their bosses think that they’re not going to want work that allows them to travel, or they’re not going to be able to stay up all night, or whatever it is. And so then you start — if you’re working part-time, you don’t get the same raises. And if you’re working flexibly your boss very typically thinks that you’re not that committed to your career, so you don’t get promoted.”
The Uganda Bureau of Standards in February, 2017 released the “Women and Men in Uganda: Facts and Figures 2016” report that showed distinguishable disparities in pay between women and men. The report highlighted stats from the Uganda National Household Survey of 2012/2013 that stated that the average income of male household heads was much higher (UGX 243,000) than for female household heads (UGX 176,000). The report went on to state that the overall wage gap between women and men was about UGX 90,000 with the wage gap in the non-agricultural sector (with men earning UGX 100,000 more than women) being even more apparent than in the agricultural sector (with men earning UGX 30,000 more than women).
This category of pay differences is much harder to reduce by legislation (creating laws) as it is much more sneaky and inbuilt into everyday work life and systems of work that have been present from time immemorial. Its causes include the male-dominated jobs being often the ones where pay is higher, prejudice in selection of study subjects or areas for girls and women in school, stereotyping of certain often higher paying jobs as being ‘for men’, higher care burdens for women making it harder for them to compete with fellow men for better jobs etc. As a result, this area calls for changes in societal norms, among others, such as the areas of study that girls and women are encouraged to take on, reducing prejudice in promotions and the procedure for work pay increments and other multi-pronged and multi-sectoral approaches.
WHAT CAN AN EMPLOYERS DO TO HELP REDUCE THE GENDER WAGE GAP?
There is a new movement towards more meaningful flexible work arrangements (which include flexible work hours) which can go a long way in improving the ability for women to compete on even playing ground with men in the workplace and in reducing the gender pay gap. It will enable women to manage their heavy domestic care workloads and still take on their work in a manner that is enabling rather than stifling. In addition, it will also allow progressive men that are interested in sharing the care burden with the women in their lives, an opportunity to do so without suffering the cost to their finances and career advancement. It is a win-win situation and will contribute to a fairer and better society, for everyone!