Gender is a significant area of social and economic classification, and resulting in exclusion. There are clear gender disparities in material well-being irrespective of one's socio-economic status, although the degree or rate of disparity varies across the globe, and often varies over time. Due to this representation, women had to find themselves cemented into a lifetime of low earnings and under-utilized qualifications.
In our culture, there is a profoundly rooted perception that men are the movers and shakers of the business world. This may have been valid about fifty years ago, but we are seeing a new and very interesting phenomenon emerging today. Females are making great strides in the business world and the male-female ratio is beginning to level out.
Although women's participation in the workplace and their level of education is growing, some major factors hold women back more than men. Among other factors, these lead to the massive wage gap and rising gender disparity that has grown in the modern workforce.
In 1970, only 40.8 per cent of women over the age of 16 were employed in the United States. This number has seen continuous growth and was 57.5 per cent in 2000. As the recession struck, both men and women saw job losses and 53.6 per cent of women were working in 2010, (US Department of Labour Statistics, 2013). While that number has dropped a little, quite a difference has been made by the multitudes of women who have entered the workforce in the past fifty years. The extra productive power these women provide accounts for a quarter of today's US gross domestic product (Barsh and Yee, 2011).
In 2018, women held 51.5% of all management, professional, and related occupations. However, the overwhelming majority of boards are still dominated by men. In 2018, men held 76% of S&P 500 board seats, while women held 24% (2018 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index (2018)). In 2018, men held 77.5% of Fortune 500 board seats, while women held 22.5% (Deloitte and Alliance for Board Diversity, 2019).
Owing to the multiple forms of gender discrimination present, the workplace was often referred to as an inhospitable environment for women (Abrams, 1991). The gender wage gap is an example of how employment inequality adversely impacts women's wages and prospects (e.g., Peterson and Morgan, 1995).
There has been little change in the full-time employee gender pay gap since 2010 (OCED, July 2020). Biggest drivers of the gender wage gap include occupational segregation, educational achievement gaps, and caregiving obligations that fall heavily on women, lack of wage transparency, and discrimination and bias.
Compared with men, women are underpaid. In a comprehensive US study using data from 1983 to 2000, the researchers found that women were paid 22 per cent less than men after accounting for human resource variables that could influence salaries (e.g., level of education, job experience) (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2003). Further, within any given occupation, men typically have higher wages than women; this “within-occupation” wage gap is especially prominent in more highly paid occupations (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). In a study of over 2000 managers, women were compensated less than men were, even after controlling for several human capital factors (Ostroff and Atwater, 2003).
The average annual income for women globally is $11,500, compared to $21,500 for men (The world forum, 2019). Younger women (16–24 years old) are closer to pay equity. In 2018, these women earned 90.8% of what men in the same age group earned, based on median weekly earnings (US Bureau of Labour Statistics, 2019). However, there is a wider gap among older workers (over 65 years old). In this age group, women earned just 77.2% of men’s median weekly earnings for full-time wages and salaries in 2018.
In 2020 a PayScale gender pay gap report, women earn 81 per cent of every dollar earned by men. When men and women with the same employment characteristics do similar jobs, women earn $0.98 for every dollar earned by an equivalent man. In other words, a woman who does the same work as a man, with the same qualifications, is still earning two per cent less for no apparent cause. The gender pay gap regulated is the same as last year. In recent years, narrowing the regulated gender wage gap has slowed down, declining year-over-year by just a fraction of one per cent. As of 2015, it's shrunk a total of $0.01.
Reducing gender inequality in the workplace
Organizations can take action in HR policies to mitigate discrimination. The organization can develop diversity initiatives within its human resource systems to change the composition of the workforce that includes policies for recruiting, retaining and developing employees from underrepresented groups (Jayne and Dipboye, 2004). Diversity initiatives can operate like affirmative action programs in that organization's track and monitor, that is the number of qualified candidates from different groups (e.g., women vs. men) in a pool. This helps to implement gender-neutral recruitment processes.
Organizations that incorporate diversity-based criteria into their performance and promotion policies and offer meaningful incentives to managers to identify and develop successful female candidates for promotion are more likely to succeed in retaining and promoting diverse talent.
The organisation can also support women in more senior roles. Barclays and Credit Suisse UK have all set gender targets, broken down by business lines and functions. They have clearly defined interim milestones and deadlines so that they can continually measure themselves against their targets.
An organisation should have a clear policy on discrimination in the workplace. Research by Unilever found that women and men fail to understand gender discrimination and offensive conduct in the workplace. 67% of women said they feel pressured to get over inappropriate action. And most women (64%) and slightly more than half of men (55%) said that men don’t confront each other when witnessing this behaviour.
Create a clear, unbiased, non-retaliatory discrimination policy that ensures employees have a proper way to comment or report on inappropriate treatment in the workplace. Make sure everyone knows and understands the policy. Implement severe penalties for sexual discrimination and harassment.
Finally, the organisation should promote a culture where great ideas come from all levels, genders and races and all voices are welcome and respected around the table.
Keithley Tongai is a Consultant intern at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
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