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Equal Pay Day: Are We Close to Equality?

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“Teach our boys the rules of equality and respect so that when they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life.” – Beyoncé

Despite the equal pay act of 1963 making it illegal to pay men and women different salaries for similar work, in 2016 women are still paid significantly less than men all across the globe. In fact it could take as long as another 118 years to close the global pay gap. Today – the 12th of April – marks equal pay day, a day which marks how far into 2016 women have to work on average to earn what men earned in 2015. The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) introduced the marker in 1996 to raise awareness of the issue.

This year Glassdoor released an in depth study; Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap: Evidence from Glassdoor Salary Data. They looked at 500,000 salaries for specific job titles at specific companies which were shared anonymously online by employees and results showed that men earn 24% higher base salaries than women on average. At present in the US women make about 79 cents for every dollar earned by men and the gap is even worse for minorities – black women earn 60 cents and Latinas earn 55 cents to every dollar white men make. The UK is only a fraction better with women earning 77 pence to ever pound their male counterparts earn.

Recently the issue has gained a lot of media attention due to a number of high profile cases. Take the Sony email leak that revealed Jennifer Lawrence was being paid considerably less than her male costars for American Hustle. Then there was the example of the US women’s national soccer team who sued the US Soccer Federation because they’re paid as little as 40% of what the men’s team gets paid.

In terms of everyday jobs computer programmer is the occupation with the highest gender pay gap with a difference of 28.3%, followed by chefs, dentists and CEO level positions. However, it should be noted that there is another side to the coin – in occupations including social work and merchandising women are consistently paid more than men.

The majority of us would like to think we are being paid fairly according to the market rate alongside our skills and experience. However, only about half of employers share salary information internally so often it is difficult to know. Thanks to increasingly easy-to-access online information salary transparency is becoming more common, but not everyone is in favour of it. Salary often depends on external factors including the hiring climate, industry competition and supply and demand, which are constantly changing. So rather than discrimination, salary discrepancies could just be a result of timing. Regardless, a way to combat this is to teach girls negotiation skills from an early age and even incorporate it into school and university courses so they feel comfortable asking for what they want.

Unfortunately many of us are still guilty of subconsciously perceiving men as the heads of household and breadwinners responsible for supporting a spouse and children. Therefore, change can’t just take place inside governments or organisations. Attitudes and the culture around the division of labour at home need to change too. If the burden of being a housewife is always placed on women then maintaining high levels of women joining and advancing in the workforce won’t be possible. Gender equality needs to be ingrained from birth to change perceptions and stereotypes.

While equality has come on leaps and bounds there’s still a long way to go, and we definitely shouldn’t have to wait 3 more generations for it.


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