Efforts to tackle the gender pay gap have been in place for years and although there have been some improvements we are still light-years behind the ultimate goal: eradicating gender inequality.
Forecasts from Deloitte and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggest that without targeted action the gap will not close until 2069 (Deloitte) or 2086 (ILO). Unfortunately for many of us, both of these dates indicate true gender equality and equal pay will not be reached in our lifetimes.
We have seen some progress; presently, women’s employment rate has reached 64.5%, an all-time high across the EU. But still, the majority of women take on two thirds of parental care and three quarters of household work. The consequence of this is that many women are forced to work part-time and are exposed to higher stress levels, poverty risk and depression. This combined with the factors that in 2016, 41% of women in the UK were employed on a part-times basis and that on average women get paid 16% less than men, while their pensions are 40% lower than their male counterparts are some of the main contributors to the gender pay gap (European Union, 2016). There are considerable differences in the gender pay gaps across Europe, despite the stated intention of EU to prioritise the issue. For example, in Romania the gender pay gap is at 7.1%, while in Finland it stands at 20.7%.
1) Policies and Legislation
UK legislation will make it mandatory from April 2017 for companies with over 250 employees to publish gender pay gap figures on their websites as well as on GOV.UK. This will ensure transparency and will highlight the problem in larger firms, but it’s simply not enough. It must be considered that many women are employed in small firms in sectors such as hospitality and education, most of which won’t be covered by the new legislation. Access to training, career development as well as family friendly practices and a pro-active approach within the organisation is what can really make a difference. The pay gap after the age of 40 is much wider, which is likely connected with women having less working experience due to taking time out to take care of their family. Maternity, paternity and carer leave should run hand in hand, which in turn will give all employees, not just women more options. Working arrangements such as flexible working hours, working from home, job sharing, childcare facilities or assistance with childcare and open dialog will ensure a move in the right direction. All of these factors should help close the gap.
2) Education and Culture
A big contributor to the gender pay gap is the fact that women are more likely to take jobs within relatively low pay sectors. Encouraging women to enter more highly paid occupations and to study in fields such as science and mathematics will help narrow the gap. We need to ensure more leadership roles are filled by women; up-skilling and training opportunities as well as career advancement programmes must be imbedded in companies’ strategies and culture.
3) Checklist for HR practitioners
- Identify and highlight the problem.
- Look at the recruitment strategy; ensure the recruitment pool is large and unbiased.
- Ensure promotion and pay is based on measurable data and unbiased.
- Ensure robust policies tackling gender inequality and promoting diversity are in place.
- Ensure there are unbiased training and career advancement opportunities.
- Ensure Social responsibility, equality and diversity are embedded in the organisational culture and supported on all levels.
- Transparency and family friendly policies.
- Maintain an open channel for employees to communicate grievances.
4) Checklist: Closing the Pay Gap for Yourself
- Negotiate– Ensure you brush up on your negotiating skills, many studies show women shy away from negotiations. Every salary is negotiable.
- Pick the right time– e.g. after completion of a big project or received praise.
- Challenge your employer– in many cases pay disparity only comes on the radar of management when it’s brought to their attention.
- Do your research– Know legislation, company policies, industry salary standards and anything else you can use to will help your case.
Women have always had to fight, fight for our basic human rights. This includes our rights to vote, to work, to be in control of our bodies and even to change the perceptions and prejudice that made many women believe that once we marry and have children our only option is to be “domestic goddesses”. We have been fighting for equal rights over 200 years, it is time we finish this battle. The tools are all there, the policies, legislation and strategies are in place, we need to take action. It is our job to implement, promote and ensure equality. Efforts to close the gender gap change must be driven by everyone. This means all businesses, governments, employees and all parts and levels of organisations. Everyone has to do their part and women have to say “No more!”
Author: Mary Bancheva
Mary is a HR manager with experience spanning across a wide range of HR functions and management. She graduated in HRM with first class honours and is currently the HR manager of VHMworld’s European Headquarters. She is also a human and animal rights activist and loves travelling.