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May 24
The Gender Pay Gap: Time for Change

Author: Georgina Barrick

Ricky Gervais joked about it while hosting the Golden Globes.

The BBC's John Humphrys caused an outcry when comments he made to a producer about it were leaked.

Northern Ireland has reversed theirs, while Iceland is making big strides towards doing the same.

Syria and Pakistan have not…

I'm talking about the gender pay gap.

#Fact: Men earn more, on average, than women.

In 2017, global average earnings for women were $12 000, compared to $21 000 for men.

This gap is evident across region, industry and age.

Education makes little difference. Neither, seemingly at this point, does legislation.

And, while the issue has been on the global agenda for decades – America's Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963 – little real progress has been made.

According to the World Economic Forum, at this rate, it will take 217 years before women universally earn the same as men.¹

These facts have really shocked me. It's 2018, for goodness sake.

Either I'm horribly naive or have been fortunate to headhunt for clients, and work for companies, where salaries are related to the complexity of the role, rather than the gender of the employee filling it. I was equally shocked to hear how much more than Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe was paid for commentating at Wimbledon and that Claire Foy, who portrayed the bona fide leading role of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix's The Crown (which I loved, by the way ), was paid less than Matt Smith, who played the supporting role of Prince Philip.

Locally, despite supportive legislation and better tertiary education attainment, South African women are more likely to be unemployed or work informally or part-time. We're are also more likely to work longer hours for less and do more unpaid work than men.

All of this has contributed to South Africa's ranking in the WEF's Global Gender Gap Report dropping from 79 in 2006 to 89 in 2017. The IPSOS 2017 Pulse of the People Report supports these findings - South African women earn 27% less than their male counterparts.

My blood boils.

While we've made many encouraging moves in the right direction (think 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' legislation in many countries and America's 10 April 'Equal Pay' day), myths that reinforce unequal pay persist.

Like, the idea that women don't need to earn as much as men because we work for 'pin money' – when 49.4% of all American households with children under 18 have a breadwinner mother who contributes at least 40% to household income.

Or, that we earn less because we don't negotiate salary – when the reality is that, even when we do (and 12% of women have, compared to 51.5% of men), we may, in fact, be penalised for asking, while men are rewarded.

And, perhaps most pervasive, that women choose to be paid less – or choose lower-paying jobs – because we trade salary for flexibility. When the truth is that, rather than choice, women have constraints on choice – like the need to balance raising children with a career as, globally, women typically shoulder 75% of childcare responsibility.

Or, the historical myth that biological differences keep women out of higher-paying jobs – the 'men have superior mathematical ability' argument.

Together, these endemic myths impact the gender pay gap and prevent women from participating fully economically.

As 21st Century leaders, role models and mentors – both men and women – what can we do to effect positive change on pay?

Promote transparency.

Research shows that publishing pay raises earnings – and improves employee engagement.

In some countries, legislation is pushing transparency. The UK has enacted law that makes gender pay gap reporting mandatory, while the Scandinavian countries publish everyone's income tax returns annually.

The result – Sweden has only a 6% average pay gap between men and women doing the same job.

In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows employees to discuss employment conditions with co-workers – a provision designed to bypass the secretive approach to pay that contributes to the gender pay gap.

Don't rely on previous salary when making job offers.

Using previous salary as a base discriminates against women who have taken time out of the workplace to raise children, been working part-time or in low-paying employment.

Rather, like Google, offer what the job is worth.

Value negotiation.

Salary negotiation goes wrong for women more often than men.

One possible solution to this problem is to coach women in the art of negotiation.

Another is to raise awareness around the issue with your management team and encourage them to advocate for women during negotiations.

Yet another solution is to ban salary negotiation entirely. Rather, set pay ranges for each of your roles and make non-negotiable offers to candidates.

Create 'family-friendly' workplaces.

Many highly-skilled women leave the workplace when they start a family – which is a loss for all.

Family-friendly policies – like childcare assistance, extended leave and proper flexibility – that support working mothers make it easier for them to stay in work.

I'm exceptionally fortunate to work for a listed company, where everyone is rewarded fairly for their efforts and salaries relate to the role at hand. This means that, irrespective of gender or race, we have a package range for each role and compensate our staff based on their knowledge, skills and experience.  Looking at the facts, I can see that this isn't the case for all.

The time is now. Let's stand together against all forms of inequality and discrimination.

I know that I'm ready.

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co, Insource.ICT/ IT Edge and The Working Earth, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

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