Recently, Hollywood Star and leading lady, Tracee Ellis Ross broke the internet when reports surfaced that she had threatened to quit the American network ABC’s comedy hit show, Black-ish due to a pay discrepancy between her and her co-star, Anthony Anderson. Although she later came out on Twitter and repudiated the reports as false and cleared the whole issue up as simply a contract renegotiation, an important conversation was sparked. Gender-based pay disparity. The issue has long been a contentious one, amid other forms of gender-based discrimination at the workplace.
Gender-based pay disparity or the gender pay gap as it is sometimes referred to is the phenomenon where there is unequal pay between the genders for the same (or almost similar) amount of work done and mostly works against the female gender. This means that a man and a woman could be at the same position at the workplace, doing the same job, pulling the same hours but the man gets a higher salary than the woman just because he is male. Although this practice is clearly chauvinist, sexist and discriminatory, a lot of employers and companies still adopt this policy. The ‘rationale’ behind this sexist policy is that men or rather male employees are much more focused and offer a higher economic value to the employer/ company unlike women, who are so very often distracted by other external factors, such as nurturing families, taking care of children and so on. Appallingly, it does not stop there. Women also, according to the proponents of this policy, lose economic value to their employers during their childbearing years, because of the maternity leave that they will inevitably have to go on. This is an unfair assertion and one of many challenges women face in the workplace women including sexual harassment and challenges when they are pregnant or return to the workplace after having a baby.
Despite the practice being overtly discriminatory, it still remains a silent issue, as matters of pay are usually personal and confidential. Unless a male colleague shares his pay information with a female colleague, or unless she stumbles upon it by accident, there are not many other ways she can find out what her male counterpart is being paid. As a result, many women end up and have ended up being paid less without them even knowing. In Kenya for example, according to the World Economic Forum report, it was estimated, in 2015, that for every 100 shillings paid to a man, 62 shillings was paid to a woman for doing a similar job. In the USA, according to an analysis carried out by Pew Research Center in the same year, women earned 83% of what men earned working comparable hours. Globally, it is estimated that women earn 79% of what men earn working the same job and doing similar work. So, this is not just a local or even regional issue, it is a global one.
Of the possible solutions available for curbing this practice, the most notable one is through government legislation. Many countries across the world have enacted legislation upholding and emphasizing the value of equality between the genders. For example, the USA has The Equal Pay Act which prohibits employers from paying unequal wages based on gender. Locally, there’s the Two-thirds gender rule and the Labour Act which both push for equality between the genders. However, a lot still has to be done to curb this practice entirely.
Most notably, women should take more active stands against not only this but against other forms of discrimination as well, such as sexual harassment, and hold their employers accountable. Women should not suffer in silence but speak about this and other discriminatory practices at the workplace and challenge these sexist and chauvinist policies. Men also have a large role to play in this, as they too should also take an active stand against all forms of discrimination at the workplace (although statistics show that they are the largest perpetrators of this forms of discrimination). They should hold their employers to account when any form of discrimination is targeted against their female counterparts, including taking an active stand and protesting against wage disparity. It is not enough for men to just sympathize with the plight of women, they should take an active stand against the vices and ills that women are subjected to not only in the workplace but in all spheres of life as well.
As the saying goes, all it takes for evil to prevail is for a good (wo)man to do nothing.