The big salary gap

HARARE - When the United States of America World Cup winning women’s soccer team filed a federal complaint charging US Soccer with wage discrimination, Zimbabwean women must have looked unperturbed. It was none of their business.

Not so long after, when the Mighty Warriors qualified for the African Women Cup of Nations, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) gave them $50 so that they could — according to the Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa — “buy themselves dresses.”

The Zifa president’s remarks brought to the fore the issues around inequality in pay among gender.

Seeing as April 12 is globally recognised as “Equal Pay Day” after a recommendation by the United Nations, it is only fitting to tackle the issue.

Human Resources guru Memory Nguwi told the Daily News on Sunday that the application of salary gaps in the country was relative.

“In Zimbabwe, the pay disparities do not exist because here salaries are based on grade and performance. It only follows in very special and few examples. Given the same role, performance and experience cannot be compared across levels,” he said.

Nguwi said Zimbabwe had not produced a study to indicate gaps in remuneration.

“Because generally, women are weaker negotiators, this is just a generalisation though because we do not have scientific facts to prove this in Zimbabwe,” he said.

But another industrial psychologist, Mwaida Dhliwayo said her observations highlighted that male workers earned more than their female counterparts.

“Look, it is a fact. It has not been proven yet since no surveys have been undertaken to establish the numbers but women are paid less than male workers. This, mind you, has nothing to do with the progress Zimbabwe has made in the gender fight.

“In some cases you will see that women occupy lower grades so obviously the men will be paid more by virtue of being in higher pay grades. Women just choose less lucrative jobs,” she said.

“Women are just poor negotiators. The gap in wages between men and women gets worse as time progresses, and many critics blame that on women being less aggressive when it comes to negotiating salaries — an issue that would make the gap grow exponentially with each performance review or job promotion,” she said.

A 2006 American study, referred to as the Bowles study, found that when women negotiated their salaries, both men and women interviewers were less likely to hire them.

“Women are forced to toe a fine line between masculine and feminine when it comes to salary, and it seems they are sort of doomed either way.

“If they do not ask — too feminine — they end up with lower salaries. If they do negotiate — too masculine — then they will be seen as too aggressive or just plain unlikable,” Dhliwayo said.

The Zimbabwe-born and South-Africa-based HR consultant also said that there are several other factors that tip the pay scales in favour of males.

“I will tell you from experience that a pregnant woman is an entirely different being from her normal self and sometimes this affects performance than after pregnancy, those with gracious employers go on three months maternity leave. So essentially, a woman who has three children has to take an average three years to dedicate to baby making,” she said.

Dhliwayo said during this time, male counterparts will be working undistracted.

“When you go home to have babies, progress does not stop. Promotions even happen in your absence to dedicated employees to put in work,” so really, at the end of the day who earns more? Who scores the promotion?” she said.

A Wall Street study that compared the wages of men and women adjusted to factor in experience, job title, education, and other factors, indicated that the pay gap between the genders was almost non-existent when a single male and a single female were compared.

Once those two employees were each married, however, the gap expanded to 1,6 percent — even though no one actually was having children yet.

But when married women with children were compared to married men with children, the gap widened to 4,2 percent.

Now referred to as “The Motherhood Penalty,” it has been consistently shown that men’s wages go up when they have children, whereas married women’s wages go down when they have them.

Dhliwayo said another reason why females earned less than their male counterparts was they tended to give up monetary compensation for more flexibility.

“Women also earn less because they want more flexible schedules, less travel, and other job responsibilities. These issues may cause women to seek out certain career options that may exacerbate the gap,” she said.

This comes as financial services firm PwC last year published the findings from its remuneration report, which showed a great divide between the pay of men and women in South Africa.

The group surveyed the most recent annual reports of all 373 Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed companies with a total market capitalisation of around R10,8 trillion and found that while female representation was still growing with board representation improving, salaries hardly reflected the progress.

PwC’s Executive Directors’ Remuneration — Practices and Trends Report: South Africa 2015, found that in 2015, average female representation on the JSE was eight percent.

The financial services group pointed to a statistic from the South African Revenue Service which showed that the percentage of female taxpayers had been steadily increasing over the last few years.

For the 2015 tax year, females accounted for 44,3 percent of the assessed individual taxpayers, earning 36,3 percent of the taxable income and contributing 29,6 percent of tax assessed.

Females on average earned a taxable income of R160 702 and were liable for tax of R26 919 at an effective rate of 16,8 percent, as opposed to males, who earned an average taxable income of R223 550 and were liable for tax of R50 885 at an effective rate of 22,8 percent.

“From the aforementioned statistics it is evident that females on average earn 28,1 percent less than males as measured through taxable income and are liable for 47,1 percent less tax than their male counterparts,” PwC said.

And according to PwC’s REMchannel online salary survey 2015, female chief executives in small, medium and large cap organisations accounted on average for 12 percent in comparison to the 88 percent representation by their male counterparts.

Additionally, 22 percent of the male chief executives were paid in the upper quartile of the market while only 2,5 percent of females were paid at the same level.

Globally, progress to close the gender pay gap stopped after the 2008 economic crash, with the World Economic Forum(WEF) projecting that it will be more than 100 years before women can expect equal pay with men.

Wef said women’s pay still lags nearly a decade behind, meaning that what women are now paid now averages the equivalent of what men were paid in 2006.

And the outlook is gloomy, at current rates of change, Wef estimates it will be 118 years before women around the world can expect equal pay.

The Wef recently publishing its 10th annual report on gender parity, with data indicating that the average full-time salary for an employed woman globally is $111 a year — little more than half the male average of $205.

This almost matches men’s average income in 2006, which the WEF estimated at $113 (women’s pay then was $61).

Founder and executive chairman of the Wef Klaus Schwab is quoted by the Financial Times warning that the situation was even worse in Sub-Saharan countries.

The pay figures are part of the Wef’s annual report on all aspects of the gender gap, which also covers education, health and political empowerment.

Based on scores for dozens of those indicators, Iceland comes out top, followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Rwanda.

Global averages inevitably mask huge differences between countries and even regions. Nordic countries dominate the list for all measures.

However, top performers are not all predictable. For comparing average total incomes for men and women, eight countries appear to have reached parity, but those figures will be distorted because the survey does not measure average incomes above $40 000.

Of those countries where proper comparisons can be made, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and Vietnam come out on top. Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and India are the worst performers.

The list of countries that have best succeeded in closing the gap between men and women in the economy — which also includes the rate of women working and in leadership roles — is topped by Bolivia, France, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

Nordic countries, despite having topped the league 10 years ago, have also continued to go further than most to improve the lot of women who want to work.

Pay for women has traditionally been depressed by the fact that so many more women than men work in low-paid public sector and “caring” professions, and do part-time work, which is often in low-pay sectors.

However, the Wef report also finds a wide gap between the rates of pay for men and women doing the same work: for every $1 earned by a man, researchers estimate that, on average, a woman will get little more than $0,60.

Solutions to the continuing gender gap in pay fall into three categories, according to Saadia Zahidi, a member of Wef’s executive committee and the lead author of the report.

She listed regulations banning outright discrimination; improving parental leave, childcare and tax policy; and changing incentives for companies to improve their performance.

She also pointed to Turkey’s experiment with tax breaks for businesses that employ more women; and companies trying out their own policies, such as Coca-Cola making special efforts to support female suppliers and distributors.

Some companies are also trailing mentoring — including younger women mentoring older male colleagues to help them understand the changes.

Zahidi also believes a growing focus on the need for “caring” professions will put a premium on wages in those sectors, where women are dominant.

Perversely, in some countries women are losing out because maternity and childcare policies are so generous they are taking more time out of their careers.

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