Diversity: 4 Ways to Fix the Gender Pay Gap in Your Company
It is a fact universally acknowledged that women are paid unequally. It is not necessary to quote, but simply asserts the fact that on average, women in India are paid 34 per cent less on an hourly basis than men a recent study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found. This gap in wages is the highest among 73 countries studied in the report, clearly stating how far behind the value chain we are!
The gap exists despite women being top performers, despite women being well qualified, sometimes better qualified than their male counterparts, and sometimes even when the woman is in a very senior executive role.
Equal pay is increasingly becoming part of boardroom conversation and most organisations want to do something about their gender pay gaps. It’s the digital age and everything is data-driven. Companies need to collect and use their own data to go to the bottom of the problem and design processes to correct this.
Based on our experience we believe the following are the top four factors that reinforce the gender pay gap. We have also made some simple recommendations which you can follow to set the ball rolling, and make the change.
1. Subconscious bias:
The very term indicates that people don’t plan this. Most people don’t head to work thinking they want to promote men over women or, that they want to pay men more than their female counterparts.
Yet subconsciously they still have a bias in favour of men, stemming from gender stereotypes that we tend to hold about men and women. From precedence, for centuries we have tended to see men as effective leaders and managers, and women as more nurturing making them effective caretakers. The activation of these stereotypes happens so quickly that we’re not typically aware of it.
Subconscious bias and stereotyping come into play at work when managers are determining which employees to hire and how employees should be compensated. Everything else being equal between a male and female employee, subconscious bias often results in higher pay for the male employee.
Addressing subconscious bias requires a change of mindset. It means trying to wipe away years and years of conditioning that has been reinforced for generations together. The most effective solution here is to have more women in leadership roles. They can be thought leaders and shape the way an organisation hires, and functions. More women in management mean more top-down change. They become icons of change in their own way for other women in the office and set the right benchmark for success and growth.
Another factor that can greatly help this is by conducting gender sensitization workshops for the team. There is no doubt that men and women are different, bring different skills to the table and certainly have different challenges both professionally and personally. At the same time, it is a proven fact that they can play each other’s’ roles as effectively. So the real gap is in understanding each other and merely highlighting the differences and sharing strategies to cope with these differences will go a long way in bridging the gender gap.
A simple example of this is how not to make a mockery of a simple biological occurrence such as pre-menstrual syndrome. It’s very common, and it’s hormonal and women don’t have much control over it, though with awareness it can be toned down. So often it is the butt of jokes, “She’s so annoyed! Must be PMSing”. Women do it, as much as men. It’s nothing really to be laughed about, and these kind of small things add up and reinforce unconscious bias. Gender sensitising can very well tackle such a small issue effectively.
2. Career break:
We live in challenging times, no doubt. A gap year or more commonly known as a career break is not unheard of anymore. Both men and women equally experiment with this phenomenon. While on break they try their hands on to a variety of things, mostly sort of passion projects. Also given the current tech-enabled business scenario, individuals don’t shy away from venturing into setting up their own businesses. Some of them may choose to get back to a full-time job after spending a few years fulfilling their drive for entrepreneurship.
Another pressing reason why employees take a career break is for providing care for an alleging or ageing family member. No, it’s not a women’s job, many men have had to take this step too. But the numbers state that women largely exit their careers to provide care other than for maternity.
Everybody has some urgent matters they need to prioritise on a timely basis and need some freedom to work on their terms. So often, companies can lose a good candidate because of their lack of flexibility in hiring.
the first step is to once again bring about a change in the thinking. Just because a person took a career break does not mean the person has lost his/her ability to work or forgotten his/her skills. The individual definitely deserves a chance to prove themselves and from experience I can say, when you give someone a chance, they are more likely to live up to your expectations. You could consider two solutions to bridge the gender pay gap for women who want to take a career break or want to come back to work after a career break.
One of the crucial changes to make at an organisational level is to delink the time spent in office from the pay. Basically, offer flexible working option. Sometimes, women may need an option to work from home. Their compensation can be delinked from the number of hours they put in for work and can be re-engineered to reflect the output / key results. It’s quite easy in today’s time to keep track of work and totally achievable with proper planning.
The second change, and probably a one that needs a push from top to bottom is to relook at the whole process of hiring. Once again delink the compensation with a career break, stop using that as a negotiation tool. Focus on skills assessment and role fitment, rather than past experience. Also the questions one asks at interviews itself needs to change.
3. Occupational segregation:
This shows how men and women typically tend to go for certain types of occupations. For example more men in a sales force, more men in jobs with night shifts, more men in heavy engineering industries, more women in secretarial and administration roles etc. Occupations are distinguished by gender for many reasons, ranging from social norms that constrain employers’ and employees’ decision-making to personal preferences (which may be grounded in social norms) to discrimination from employers. This has led to very obvious pay gaps spanning over generations.
While the occupational segregation exists, there is no data to prove that men can only do a certain kind of jobs and women can do only certain kind of jobs. There are equally good women salespersons as men. Take any field, you will find that no one gender dominates.
To reduce pay inequalities arising out of occupational segregation, compensation must be linked to commitment and output on the job rather than to the gender. At a policy level, both the government and the private sector organisations need to work together and find ways to reduce gender-based occupational segregation at all levels.
Having more and more women do jobs in male-dominated fields, or the other way around will first help break down the bias. Secondly, as more diversity enters the job field, the pay can also be negotiated accordingly.
In fact, men or women, skill development is the first step, to ensure that a candidate is suitable for the job. Launching initiatives to educate and train women to make them well-equipped for all kinds of occupations also plays a pivotal role at a fundamental level to widen career opportunities for women in all sectors. Also, hiring has to be personality specific more than gender-specific to ensure a good fit for the job role.
4. Working mothers:
Often, women who return after a maternity break are treated differently. It is assumed their focus will change, which it has – but that doesn’t mean that the focus towards work will be any less. People make space for new things that take place in their lives. Sometimes, men are given increments when they get married or when they start a family, while in the case of women no consideration is shown. How about giving a woman the same incentive at work, to see that she stays on if she is a good performer? Simple things like this can reinforce a lot of change.
One upfront solution is to encourage flexibility at work, equally for both men and women. The idea is to be able to weave this into the organisation’s hiring or employee policy. Another solution is to introduce a child care allowance, to incentivise the working mother to return to her job. Having a child should not be seen as a threat to one’s career path. This is not to say options don’t exist at all. It can be an active prerogative of women to choose different roles, industries, and companies that offer them an advantage to explore opportunities in environments where the gap may be smaller.
Mandating diversity in hiring is the first step. Hiring, performance appraisal and promotion processes should be made as objective as possible.
Lastly, it is up to the woman to begin making the change. If a woman needs to take a career break, she has a good reason for it. It doesn’t undermine her skills, it doesn’t take away from her career experience, and importantly, if she has done enough to show that she has kept her skills up to date, then there is no reason for her not to get the industry standard pay, or be denied a pay hike.
Women should stop discounting themselves and their skills. In deciding whether or not to leave a job, women seem more likely to take into account factors other than pay, including how flexible a job is, where it’s located, and how much they enjoy what they do and the people they work with. Women can and should try to negotiate for pay in the same manner that men do. After all, there is nothing different in either the skills they acquire or the job role they need to perform!
Yellow Spark can help companies to develop managers who are able to take gender bias out of the system. To know more about our approach and coaching options please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.