The gender-pay gap is still prevalent across the world and there is an urgent need to address it. Perception of development is skewed if we do not account for the progression of women’s participation in the global economy.
Historically, a woman’s place has always been secured in the private sphere. During the course of World-War I, we see the first large movement of women into the public sphere. Women had entered the workforce to compensate for the men who had to vacate their jobs to head out to war. However, women were getting paid lower than that of the men they were taking place of. The first ever equal pay strike took place in 1918 when women who worked on the London buses and trams demanded equal pay as men. Women had won the strike. Fast forward almost a 100 years later and women are still fighting for parity
Women face a range of issues within the workplace in today’s world. In the recruitment stage, women need to over-achieve and be close to revolutionary to even be considered for the same role a man with lower qualifications could easily secure (Forbes.com, 2016). In fact, women tend to hold a lot more jobs that tend to be under-paid and under-valued; more than half of those who work in minimum-wage jobs are women. Understanding the gendered nature of poverty can also help emphasize the necessity for gender parity; women are more prone to be pushed into poverty due to the precariat state that they live in.
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Often times, women are seen to be linked with conventionally “feminine” traits; emotional, irrational and soft. Whereas men are seen to be linked with conventionally “masculine” traits; cool-tempered, rational and firm. These associations are one of many factors that go into the large gender gap in senior-managerial positions, such as in Fortune 500 CEOs, where in 2014, women only made up 5.2% of the list. Employees often deem women as inadequate for certain positions under the impression that they would be too emotional and would be unable to fulfill the job requirements in the same measure as a man would.
When women are blessed and lucky enough to score a job, they still face discrimination in the workplace. If we look at the figures, more than half of women claim that they feel discriminated against in the workplace. This doesn’t just lie with a lack of opportunities being given to them in contrast to their male colleagues, but also in terms of harassment. One instance can be seen with the case of Harvard-trained lawyer Ellen Pao, who filed a lawsuit against her company, Kleiner Perkins (Who, conveniently fired her 6 months later, but claimed the lawsuit was not a factor into her being dismissed) for their unfair treatment of both her, and other women at the company. Pao’s case claimed gender discrimination, where men (All her peers, practically) were promoted over women, men were paid more than women and there was little support for women who faced sexual harassment (The Economist, 2016). Unfortunately, Pao’s case is not an isolated incident.
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COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg has consistently been pushing for gender equality and equity in the workplace, by urging people to Lean In. Sandberg claims that “equality is not a zero-sum game”. In fact, she points out that companies that have gender equity tend to fair better, by generating more market-value and better net-income growth, in addition to being more stable and prosperous. Painfully, instead we have seen that in 2015, the World Economic Forum announced that at the rate we are currently moving in, women would only achieve parity in 2133. As if this wasn’t sobering enough, this year’s report clams that a dramatic slowdown in progress predicts that it could only actually be achieved in 2186. In fact, the report even noted that on average, women work approximately 59 minutes more in a working day than a man does- to put this into perspective, that adds up to 39 more working days per year. Combine this with the fact that on average, a white woman makes 77 cents to a man’s dollar. A women of color makes even less than that.
A common misconception is that these gaps and inequalities are only prevalent in developing nations. However, when we look at it from a country to country break down, the United States stands at 45th on the list, the UK at 20th and Australia at 46th, respectively. What’s interesting to note is that all the aforementioned countries are considered “developed”. What are the factors that we consider when we look into development? This paints an ugly picture; we don’t even account for how a country treats their women when we look at their progression. In fact, to the surprise of most, Rwanda places amongst the Scandinavian countries in the Top 5 on the list.
In 2003, Rwanda included a quota system that would secure women up to 30% of seats in decision-making bodies to their constitution. While their democracy may not be perfect; it is pluralistic. Which is a lot more than can be said for other more “developed” countries, such as the United States- whom with which the last time I checked, have a record score of 0 women in all the 43 Presidents who have served term so far. Globally, we require a movement. A movement that insists on progression, a movement that pushes for the complete abolition of the gender pay gap, and a movement that condemns every nation that does not treat their women equally.
Striking-women.org. (2016). World War I: 1914-1918 | Striking Women. [online] Available at: http://www.striking-women.org/module/women- and-work/world- war-i- 1914-1918 Forbes.com. (2016). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomwatson/2015/01/30/the-social- sectors-glass- ceiling-why-women-in- leadership-jobs- matter/#1c0c41076897
Forbes.com. (2016). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyjadesimi/2016/08/08/female-leadership- the-glass- ceiling-is-cracked-not- broken/#699c7be01c2c
Identity, G. (2016). Gender Identity | Stereotypical Masculine & Feminine Traits. [online] Plannedparenthood.org. Available at: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexual-orientation-gender/gender- gender-identity
Dugan, E. (2016). ‘More than half of women are discriminated against at work’. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/more- than-half-of- women-are- discriminated-against- at-work- 9029535.html
Americanprogress.org. (2016). The Straight Facts on Women in Poverty – Center for American Progress. [online] Available at: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2008/10/08/5103/the-straight- facts-on-women- in-poverty/
The Economist. (2016). Lean in, push out. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/03/sexual-discrimination
The Huffington Post. (2016). [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrea-friedman/looking-to- rwanda-for- les_b_147833.html
Global Gender Gap Report 2016. (2016). Rankings. [online] Available at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender- gap-report- 2016/rankings/