It is now a common practice by most countries world over to adopt measures that promote an increase in women’s representation on corporate boards as well as other leadership positions. Empirically, it has been proven that there is a strong economic rationale for making progress on women representation in the corporate domain. Numerous reputable sources from the academia, management consulting firms and other research organisations have demonstrated that firms with higher representation of women on boards and in senior leadership exhibit stronger financial performance. Despite the associated benefits of placing women in the executive suites, there have been persistent gender pay gaps across nations.
Gender pay gap is defined as the average difference between remuneration for men and women who are working. Although the gap has narrowed from the 1960s to the 1990s, women are generally still paid less than men. Studies done in Australia and United States have shown that every state has a gender pay gap though differing in magnitude. The gender pay gap for Australia was reported to be around 14.6% for the past twenty years and between 15-19% in the previous decades. These gender pay gaps are internationally established measures of women’s position in the economy hence these pay gaps cannot be compared against nations. In America, data from the Census Bureau has consistently shown that men out earn women in salaries.
Some of the reasons for this perpetual disparity are reasons such as bias and discrimination in hiring and when making pay decisions. Historically women and men have been made to work in different industries and different jobs, where Female dominated industries have jobs attracting lower wages. Even where they are working together, there has been an inclination to pay the women employee lower than their male counterpart. Could it be that women’s output is valued less? ‘Most of my contributions in EXCO meetings are rarely adopted by other fellow male members, until one of them twist them a little bit!’ a common statement from female executives.
Research has shown that this discrimination has emanated from reasons like women having greater time out of the workplace which ultimately impacts their career progression and opportunities. Traditionally held notions of a woman have had lasting impacts which now require a paradigm shift if they are to be changed. Resultantly such notions have resulted in gender gaps of various forms including gender pay gaps (GPGs).These GPGs are said to start from the time a woman enters the work force. The reasons for this are mainly attributed to the times when women are out of workforce for caring reasons which is viewed as directly impacting on the economic security of a business.
Closer home, issues of gender gaps are a reality as well. The Finscope study commissioned by New Faces New Voices in collaboration with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and GIZ on Gender Access to Financial Services in Zimbabwe attested to the research above. Though not concentrating on pay gaps the study revealed a lot of thrilling information on the levels of exclusion by gender. In the same study it was established that the majority of the population earns between $1 and $100 a month, and of these 59% are female and 57% male. Additionally, the report notes that as the monthly income increases, the study saw a trend towards men having a higher earning power. In UK a study by Price Water House and Coopers showed that 85% of companies in the UK disclosed a mean pay gap, and 80% a mean bonus gap, in favour of men. The key factor for the gender pay gap appears to be relatively a high number of men in more senior and more highly paid jobs than women. GPG was also exposed at the BBC were men earn on average of 9.3% more than women. Consequently, most governments have embraced strategies and measures to address these long term induced disparities. The Zimbabwe National Financial Inclusion strategy 2016-2020 is one such. The Grace Machel Trust, a network of chapters operating in seventeen Pan African continent countries focuses on women inclusion especially in areas of financial access and advocating for women to be appointed in leadership positions. That same PWC United Kingdom study on the large retails, hospitality , travel and leisure and banking and insurance industries resulted in the UK government setting up priorities for all organisations to address the gender pay gap. These priorities include:
Across the globe gender pay gaps are a reality and prevalent at the executive level. Time is nigh for the leadership to join hands with governments and address the slow pace of progress seen on growing the proportion of women in the executive suites.
Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com