60%, - the percentage representing the number of times men are offered more for the same role, in the same company. 41%, - the percentage number of times companies interview only men for a given role. 65%, - the percentage number of women who feel discriminated against in the workplace.
When we talk about administrative practices in the workplace, the issue of gender inequality is one central topic that always comes up. Many workplaces have seen challenges in the way gender and equity have been handled in the workplace. On average, women receive lower salaries, are less likely to be promoted, and have less representation in top-level positions. The rise of affirmative action, which is the implementation of policies that support previously disadvantaged demographic groups, has been an improvement in terms of discrimination policies. However, there remains a challenge in organizations that have chosen to remain largely conservative.
The myth of work-life balance
Work-life balance can be defined as the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. In theory, a company implements policies that are supposed to support a personal life and a professional life. However, the reality on the ground is one finds themselves in a position where there is a disconnect between the two.
The discussion around work-life balance began with a shift in the number of women entering the labor market in the United States of America and elsewhere from the 1970s. Traditionally work and life outside it had been seen as two different worlds. Men had been generally seen as the ones who would largely populate the workplaces while the women would stay at home and take care of the duties at home. This ideology was challenged by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977) who argued that the two worlds could not be separated, one could not exist without the other. Resultantly, more women began entering the workplace and taking up jobs in the industries.
Since then, there has been more focus on women entering the workplace. However, attitudes towards women have remained the same. People have remained largely conservative towards women as seen by how there is a pay gap between women and men in the industry. Studies have shown women and men being paid different amounts for doing the same job, with men earning more than women. The reasons for this still center around women taking time out of the office to take care of personal commitments, for example, maternity leave. This has seen women being punished for parenthood, while men are seemingly rewarded through hefty pay-checks.
In a scandal involving the Tokyo Medical University in August 2018, it was revealed that the university purposely altered entrance exams scores, to reduce the number of female candidates being admitted into the school. This meant that lesser-qualified male students were accepted over female candidates, the reasoning being those female candidates would leave work after marriage or the birth of a child. In doing this, many female candidates were disadvantaged and left on the losing end of the policy, because of these discriminatory policies. Work-life balance becomes a myth in this regard, as it is seemingly there to foster a balance between the professional life, and the personal life, while in reality, women are being pushed out of the industry.
Japan has left women with the ultimate choice: pursue a career, or have a family. As one of the most advanced countries in the world, Japan has refused to progress concerning policies involving women in the workplace. In one study, it was found that women who had taken maternity leave found it hard to get back into the workplace as they would find themselves sometimes replaced within the organization. This hostility towards women has left them in a position where work and personal life cannot be balanced, one has to come before the other.
Gender inequality not only affects the professional industries but the sporting industry as well. Female athletes are known to be paid less than their male counterparts in the same sporting disciplines. In May 2019, Olympic champion Allyson Felix, came out stating that Nike wanted to pay her 70 % less of the contractually agreed amount after she became a mother. The rationale for this move was, being a mother would adversely affect her performance on the track, and lead to losses for the sporting giant. Nike was, therefore, willing to forego an initial agreement, in protecting its own interests, at the same time perpetuating gender inequality in the sporting industry, furthermore disadvantaging women.
What does big data say about gender inequality?
In one study of 5 medium-sized United States and international companies, it was found that on average, C-level positions were highly populated by men, while entry-level positions had a 45 % representation of women and 55 % for men. The study also aimed to answer the question, “Do women get fewer promotions and lower salaries due to poor performance, or due to bias?” In the study, it was found that men and women were equally likely to meet their goals in the workplace, but men got more positive evaluations than women. In an analysis of the evaluations, it was found that women were evaluating their female counterparts and men equally, while 70% of male evaluators provided higher evaluations for men than women. In more senior-level positions, 75 % of the evaluators gave more positive reviews to men than women. There was a disregard for performance results in the male evaluators as compared to the female evaluators. Female evaluators took a more objective evaluation stance, based on performance indicators, while the male evaluators were more subjective, attributing superior performance to their male counterparts by virtue of their gender.
Gender inequality remains a problem across organizations as women are still underpaid in organizations despite many groups advocating for a revision in these policies. More transparency should be placed on how compensation decisions are made within organizations. It remains to be seen whether or not there will be changes in how gender and compensation issues are treated within organizations.
Lindah Mavengere is a Business Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
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