Every year, the International Women’s Day is observed on the March 8, to rejoice, celebrate, engage, reach out to women all over the world. This day is particularly dedicated to the gender that for years has been looked at as the inferior.
While it is enthralling to believe the idea of International Women’s Day, a question often strikes: whether the idea of the same is reason enough to feel happy, liberated and progressive, without acknowledging the deeper complexities as far as the dignity of women in today’s world is concerned.
Now, people, while talking about gender equality always argue on the point that, if it is about equality, then why should women have a dedicated day? Why should there be any sort of privilege given? Why should there be reservations for women everywhere – from public transports to government jobs? The answer is very simple yet, not understood well.
What otherwise is referred to as privilege is actually an attempt to attain equality. Equality in family and equality in society. So where do we need to work exactly to ensure this kind of social justice? Why is feminism absolutely inevitable in today’s social discriminatory context?
In this article, we shall look into one of those major disparities that have affected women and their morale strongly and that is work and gender pay gaps.
All of us women, at a certain point in our careers have faced the menace of workplace gender discrimination. Many qualified and deserving women are often deprived of promotion and growth opportunities once they get married or become pregnant, and similar positions may be offered to a less qualified male applicant just because he is male.
The ideology behind this discrimination is really bizarre because it is assumed that a woman after becoming a mother will not remain dedicated to her organisation anymore. While for a man, becoming father is a moment of triumph. Also, the taboo that women cannot be strong leaders comes in the path of professional success for many.
Women are also more likely to be judged by their looks, like ‘not pretty enough,’ ‘too old,’ or in some positions—especially customer relations and sales—how they dress, while these things do not matter for their male counterparts. The most important thing is that the pay gap remains substantial between male and female employees even after being equally qualified and experienced for the same position.
The bottom line is if women are often discriminated against—if men get more time off, better compensation packages, or more benefits than equally qualified women based on unfair gender bias—it’s gender discrimination, and it’s illegal. Despite protective anti-discrimination laws making gender discrimination illegal, management practices at small, mid-size, and even large corporations often still favour the advancement of men.
Let’s now glance through certain statistics that testify the real data of pay discrimination is India. Based on the findings of ILO and as produced in their flagship publication the Global Wage Report 2018–2019 which was released in November 2018, India holds the top position in man-woman pay back accounting to a good 34%.
This gap in wages, is the highest among 73 countries studied in the report. On average, hourly wages of women are 16% less than those of men and higher in monthly wages, with a gap of 22% across the world.
Overall, real wages grew just 1.8% globally (136 countries) in 2017. The report also stated that in most countries, women were into part time work thereby having significantly reduced work hours which accounts for lower wages.
Similar discrimination is not only limited to labour. The empirical evidence of this gender based pay gap has been quite visible across all the industries and sectors especially in India, among women with higher levels of education. Hence, the report advocated that “emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring equal pay for women and men.”
Also, this graph remains unaltered at 20% from 2016 to 2017. However, something that has shown a worse picture of this entire issue is that in 2017, the gender gap was followed by a near-stagnation in real wage growth, that has been the lowest since 2008, the year of the financial crisis.
In 2018, India has witnessed a decline in gender-based discrimination by merely 1% as per an analysis by the Business Standard.
In the annual report issued by Monster India, a well known job portal, the highest difference has been recorded in IT/ITES sector with men earning 24% than what women have been. This value nearly equated by women-intensive industries like education, health care, social work and caregiving. Women earn 21% less than what men earn.
So, this clearly implies that despite being considered more suitable for a particular job role, women have to settle with whatever the industry decides as gender-based pay. The point above can be very well argued with the fact that Indian society still considers men to be the principal breadwinner of the family, and the woman of the house serves only as a support.
This constructs a vicious cycle—not getting the deserved pay has placed women in the secondary position in contribution towards family finances. However, as societal trends evolve over time, couples now plan and work alongside each other. In cases like this, it becomes inevitable that women’s plight at the workplace requires serious attention.
As quoted in the ILO Global Pay Analysis Report, “Gender pay gaps represent one of today’s greatest social injustices even though steps are being taken towards eradication of the same by various organisations. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.5 which calls, among other things, for equal pay for work of equal value within the framework of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To reinforce the achievement of SDG target 8.5, the ILO, together with UN Women and the OECD, established the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), an initiative to accelerate the closing of the gender pay gap across the world. The success of our efforts is crucial because inequalities within and among countries, including wage inequality, continue to be a significant obstacle to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. This year’s ILO Global Wage Report.”
In this entire juncture, there has been no strong reason for this discrimination apart from work hours, which I understand, is not going to get better anytime soon. In Indian organisations, however, work hours remain a tertiary factor, because employees have to work for long hours irrespective of their gender. This, as argued by many, is real-time gender equality. However, the same equality needs to be displayed when it comes to compensation, as well.
This kind of discrimination significantly reduces the women in a workforce. It also leads to a decline in their performance and their motivation is affected to a great extent. This can be further strengthened with demographics.
The engagement of women in the workforce in India is remarkably lower as compared to what exists in neighbouring countries. A feeble presence of sexual safety and favourable work environment also account to this reduced percentage.