Gender Pay Gap: Why Women Are Paid Less

boy-and-girl-cutout-decals-1386336_Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels
Gender Pay Gap – Photo by Magda Ehlers

Recently, the Gender Pay Gap has attracted media attention. The 2018 MeTooMovement, which began in protest against harassment and sexual assault, led to the analysis of gender inequalities in the workplace in 2019, including not only pay disparity but also barriers to the advancement of women in leadership.

Facts: Women employed in the workforce:

  • are less than men;
  • earn less than men;
  • work about six more hours per week (between paid and unpaid work);
  • are forced to take more time off work to take care of children;
  • are still excluded from management roles;

According to a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) conducted in around 70 countries – covering 80% of the world’s workers population – women earn on average 20% less than men.

Fact: In all countries of the world and most sectors, women are still paid less than men. This pay gap continues to represent one of the most widespread social injustices in the world.

What is Gender Pay Gap?

The Gender Pay Gap is the difference in salary between men and women and refers to the average annual wage of women, compared to men, for the same job.

The Gender Pay Gap is very complicated because different countries often use different indicators (for example, some countries measure salaries on an hourly basis, others on a weekly or monthly basis).

When they consider only the average salary of men and female, the Gender Pay Gap is called unadjusted. If, on the other hand, they take into account other factors that contribute to the gap – such as access to education, type of employment, number of working hours – the Gender Pay Gap is called adjusted.

According to a 2018 study, the average (unadjusted) Gender Pay Gap in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries is 13.4%.

Three lies they often tell us.

1. “Women earn less because they are in less skilled and therefore less well-paid jobs.”

Wrong! Women are paid less to do the same work as men, at all professional levels. The wage difference occurs in all sectors and types of employment. In general, the higher the professional qualification, the wider the gap.

2. “Often, women work part-time, which is why they earn less money.”

Wrong! The wage gap between men and women is calculated on a gross hourly basis. Working fewer hours a week means taking less money home at the end of the month, not earning less money every hour. Moreover, part-time work for women is not always a choice but comes from the need to take care of children and the family.

3. “Men study more; that’s why they do more paid jobs.”

Wrong! Today, 60% of graduates in Europe are women. In the United States, 36.6% of women have a degree, compared with 35.4% represented by men. But studying is not enough to reach the level attributed to men; management positions are reserved for men.

These aspects affect career opportunities and raise several questions about the distribution of the workload (paid and unpaid) between gender.

Recently published data tend to make us feel discouraged, but there is hope!

woman-holding-book-3747246_Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels
Girl Boss – Photo by Polina Zimmerman

Two very virtuous countries have already taken the path of real equality between men and women in the workplace: Iceland and Rwanda.

Iceland has become the first country in the world to enforce equal pay.

Iceland was the first state to elect a female president directly, and today the prime minister is a woman. Almost half of the deputies and company directors are women. Childcare centres and parental leave ensure that nearly four out of five women have a job.

Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir is the chair of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association; this association was instrumental in preparing a plan that led Iceland to become the first country in the world to impose equal pay legally.

As of January 2018, a law is in force according to which any public or private body, which employs more than 25 people, must demonstrate that there is no wage disparity between male and female employees. It must prove this through certification, which must be submitted every three years; in the event of non-compliance, the company will face costly daily fines.

Other countries also provide equal pay for equal work through human rights legislation, but the reality shows very disappointing data. Iceland was the first country to pass a specific law imposing rules and fines, making it possible to achieve true equality.

Rwanda beats the United States (and Europe) in gender equality.

About two decades ago, some 800,000 Rwandans dramatically died in just three months because of civil war. In the wake of these horrific events, women accounted for between 60 and 70% of the surviving population. They had no choice but to fill the roles once occupied by men.

A similar trend had occurred during the Second World War – when men went to war, the demand for female workers increased significantly, as did wages. But once the war was over, things quickly returned to normal. What did Rwanda do differently? It implemented policies to help keep women in employment.

Today, 86% of Rwandan women are employed, compared with 56% of women in the United States. In Rwanda, women earn 88 cents for every dollar that men earn; in the United States, only 74 cents.

Women in Rwanda benefit from three months of paid maternity leave (there is no such thing as paid maternity leave in the United States).  Women’s political participation in Rwanda is very high, thanks to a law that has required women to make up 30% of parliamentarians for the last 20 years. In the United States, it will take 500 years for women to achieve equal representation in politics.

Why is political representation so important? Because, when women work in politics, they put essential issues on the table that would otherwise be neglected. This event has a significant dragging effect for the benefit of women from all walks of life.

These actions can help create greater awareness and pave the way for fair gender pay.

For example:

  • Implementing pay transparency: knowing the salaries of all employees can reveal prejudices and stereotypes in organisations’ pay structures and enable employers and social partners to take tangible action towards equal pay.
  • Ensuring equal access to education: it is crucial to provide girls with accurate information about career options even in fields not traditionally associated with women. For example, by promoting science subjects among girls.
  • Supporting families: childcare and parental leave. Women are still primarily responsible for raising children; childcare costs prevent women all over the world from entering or re-entering the labour market and participating in politics. Therefore, childcare must be of the highest quality, and the state must also finance the cost. Parental leave must be shared and fairly rewarded. If men have the same opportunity to take a break from work to care for their children, the current structural discrimination decreases and motherhood is not a penalty.

I do hope that this process will accelerate over the next decade because there is no point in having to wait 500 years! It is ridiculous.

In the meantime, I invite you to think about investing in yourself, to break away from this system and professionally develop yourself in a free mode, not conditioned by society and full of personal satisfaction.

Think of a turning point and look at the digital landscape to reinvent yourself. The digital economy offers many opportunities, depending on everyone’s interests; it’s definitely the work of the future, so don’t risk to be left out and don’t remain behind men, again.

Click here to receive a Free Workshop that explains what opportunities you have and how to get started. Make a choice today!

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” (Maya Angelou)

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