In South Africa, women are still paid less than men. The gender pay gap is estimated on average to be between 15% to 17%. This implies that a South African woman would need to work two months more than a man to earn the equivalent salary that he would earn in a year. A number of reasons in the work place, including the nature of the role, discrimination and a divided labour market fuel gender pay gaps. Here is what you need to know about gender pay gaps in the workplace.
The Gender Pay Gap is not the same as Equal Pay
Equal pay and gender gap deals with the disparity of pay women receive in the workplace. These two concept are easily confused but do not mean the same thing. Gender pay gap refers to a man and a woman who are doing exactly the same role and receive different pay. Equal Pay is when men and women are paid the same for doing the same work. Equal pay is a legal requirement.
In South Africa, it is prohibited to pay men and women differently for doing the same job. South African law clearly states that there must be equal pay for equal work. The Employment Equity Amendment Act (No. 47 of 2013), which came into effect in 2014, introduced the concept of "equal work for equal pay". This amendment now allows females to demand the same payment as males who perform similar work.
Even in today's society the truth of the matter is that women continue to play a greater role in caring for children, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the elderly relatives as compare to men. This is because society prescribes and entrenches gender roles that denote them as 'caregivers'. When women take up these roles, to some degree, it limits their choices on the kind of work and leisure they can take.
Look at it this way: every minute a woman spends undertaking these 'responsibilities' could be spent on market related activities that are vested in her education and skills, something her male counterpart enjoys without the burden of these tasks. Coming back from your day job to doing unpaid domestic work in the household is exhausting and reduces the amount of time that could be spend on professionally recognized work.
A divided labour market
The women's labour force participation has risen from under 20% to over 60%, however men continue to make up the majority of senior roles in the workplace. This is because generally women are concentrated in employment sectors that offer narrower scope for financial reward, like being a flight attended, working in food and customer service. These low pay - low skilled jobs affect the labour market segregation.
One could go on forever outlining the causes of gender pay gaps in our society. However, the real question is; what do you do as a woman to save yourself from being underpaid on the basis of gender?
Learn how to negotiate for your salary
Studies show that women do not perform as well as men in negotiations; women tend to avoid negotiating and accept the first offer presented by a 'prospective employer.' Linda Babcock – a researcher reckons one bad negotiation can accumulate into a lifetime of disadvantage. Read more about salary negotiations here.
Pay gap tax
We have to remember that gender pay gap is built on structural inequality and by telling women to learn how to negotiate is simply not 'enough'. Some theorist have suggested the introduction of a 'pay gap tax' for corporates. Pay gap tax would be a way of rectifying the imbalance in the company and industry in question – serving as a tool to reduce the gap.
Talking about how much you earn amongst our colleagues and people in your industry is something you should be open to. It helps knowing what people in your role are earning. You can visit online salary surveys sites to compare your salary to that of the overall market. Sites like Career24, Payscale.com can help.
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