Gender equality in the workplace is still a pipe dream for many. Education, discrimination, societal norms, and other factors affect women’s occupational choices and their pay. It is known that women are paid significantly lesser than men for the same work they do, whether it is paid domestic labour or a desk job. This is despite the fact that over the last several decades, millions of women have joined the workforce and have also made huge gains in their educational attainment.
All this means that the gender pay gap is real. It also hurts women by suppressing their earnings and making it harder for them to keep a balance between work and family. The gender pay gap is essentially the average difference between the remuneration received by working men and women. But it is more nuanced as the pay gaps can be unadjusted or adjusted. The former is much starker as it simply differentiates between the mean and median wages of the two genders, while the latter takes into account differences in factors such as occupation, education, and job experience.
Women are often blamed for not earning more
“Worldwide, women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. This results in a lifetime of income inequality between men and women and more women retiring into poverty.”
This kind of inequality can be seen in all countries and across all sectors because women’s work is undervalued and they also tend to be concentrated in different jobs than men. Even though the nature of the work may require equal or more effort and skills, it is still valued and remunerated less. The gap widens for women of colour, immigrant women, and mothers, which pushes them into casual and part-time work in the informal economy. This kind of phenomenon is common and much larger in developing countries than in developed countries.
It is alarming to know that in a country like India, the reasons for the pay gap are much more complicated. Girl students are forced to drop out of school and are married off, and even if they are educated, many women are not allowed to work by their families. Women who join the workforce often need to take extended leaves for maternity and child care, and even the healthcare of other family members. To top it all, they also take care of household duties like cooking and cleaning. All these factors lead to women’s earnings falling behind men’s over time.
Women are forced to micro-manage at their workplace and home
We have to understand why the gender wage gap exists and how we can tackle it, without shifting the blame to women for not earning more. Our economy itself provides unequal opportunities for women at every point of their education, training, and career choices. As a result, women tend to choose jobs that pay less, according to a study. They disproportionately enter lower-paid, and female-dominated occupations. However, this decision is shaped by discrimination, societal norms, and other forces beyond their control. Employers also choose to prefer men over women for the same positions and roles due to factors such as motherhood penalties.
“Equal pay for work of equal value”
The bottom line, however, is that socio-economic disparity and patriarchal power structures expose women to more unpaid care work and land the weight of multi-dimensional work, including primary caretaking on them. Factors like non-inclusivity and sexual harassment in the workplace further pressurise them to opt out of their career prospects.
Studies reveal that it will 195 years to overcome the gender pay gap in India
This is why we need to expand paid family and medical leave and improve the overall work-life balance. Paid paternity leaves for men are also a great start so that they can help at home as well and lift the burden from women. Implementation of stricter laws like the Equal Pay Act at the state and national levels will help to reduce the widening pay gap. Lastly, gender-sensitive employment practices and measures to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace are the need of the hour all across the world.