Gender Pay Gap: Myth or Reality by Karolina Silva

mind the gender pay gap

To some it is a reality, for others, it is a thing of the past. However, statistics show to this day that the gender pay gap still exists in some countries. The UK, unfortunately, is on the list.

It is not rare to hear about situations in which women are apparently being underpaid due to their gender-related skills and other gender-related conditions. Despite official statistics reporting a rise in women having as good qualifications as men in the UK, there is still the notion that payment is different depending on gender.

Is this not similar to paying according to race, religion or social background?

It appears that this is certainly not a thing of the past. It is possible that this type of discrimination is still happening in many industries today.

Surprisingly, we keep hearing news about how well-known companies commit this type of discrimination towards their female employees, who were supposedly recruited by equal and objective methods which apply to all, no matter what type of race, age, height, gender or else one might be. Because, supposedly, recruitment and selection processes are equally designed for male and female candidates; they are based on the particular demands of the job’s necessities. So, why does the salary not reflect this accordingly? Why would companies pay two people two different salaries for the same job if both of them performed to standards on the same level?

Maybe because they can get away with it; because –as with any negotiation- they as a business do their best to get the best deal?

Could be... Or, perhaps the question should be: is this still happening due to cultural beliefs or is it just another excuse to cut some more company costs? Any of these two, are equally unfair. If someone is offered the job, it is because the company fully see potential in that candidate, not on that particular gender, race or religion. Moreover, one of the social repercussions of paying differently according to gender is that it creates a social bias as to how two different groups of people should be paid, which is the basis for all types of discrimination. Therefore, it has a significant influence on the labour market and also on people’s value as a potential workforce, feeding the social or cultural beliefs regarding gender-related skills in this case. Hence, if a specific industry discriminates a group based on cultural beliefs then what are they telling the community?

No matter how small the difference of the gender pay gap may be between men and women, the mere fact of having a difference in payment due to gender denotes discrimination. Otherwise, as mentioned above, the recruitment process should be different for men and women, and we know how delicate and retrograde this situation could be. It would certainly still indicate inequity and bias, but at least it would be in an open manner, not covered up and disguised at it is today. It would not be the evolution we are looking for as a society.

Today we see common social excuses or justifications for this gender pay gap. One example is the argument of maternity leave. For many it makes sense, taking into account that by nature, women can get pregnant and ask for maternity leave, which costs the company and is, therefore, a liability. Hence, they tend to pay women less. However, for others, this does not make so much sense. At the end of the day, what could be the exact reason?

Whatever the reason may be for this difference in salaries between men and women, it is very likely to be based on subjective and cultural beliefs more than any other objective reasons. However, it is not a secret that one goal for companies and employers is to seek to make more profits, and if they can take advantage of any situation in order to reduce costs, they will do so. But let’s be honest, we know this happens. Otherwise, no longer would the need for employment law and labour union exist.

So, which is the reason behind paying less depending on gender? It would be the same as paying less due to having different beliefs.

The question is: what has made women accept taking that different type of payment? Are they aware of this situation before accepting the job and the payment? Can they do anything about it? Do they have to sit cross-armed and accept this situation?

Apparently, men tend to be firmer when negotiating their salary before accepting the job offer. Evidence suggests that men are more confident than women about their job skills, which might be a variable affecting the reason why women accept a lower payment in first place.

The purpose of this article is to create awareness about not allowing anyone to rule over our value as professionals, workers and human beings with rights. The final question I make to everyone is: what can we do to prevent any kind of discrimination?

First, it is essential to pay attention to the payment rates offered on the job add and similar roles. Do you agree with the payment? Do you think you are worth it? Why?

Then, when you have been offered the job, be confident, find out more about the salary and do not be afraid of asking questions and negotiating. If you are too intimidated to do this, then practice for it as you would any other subject. Get help from a friend or colleague. Be clear on what you want and what you are willing to accept. No matter the gender, employers will always try to offer less. We decide if we take it or not. Sometimes we might be in a situation in which we are compelled to accept what is offered but that does not mean we always have to succumb to those we see as all-powerful companies and unwillingly accept their oh-so-generous (supposedly) offer. Which brings me to one of the biggest issues there are when talking about legalities: people do not tend to read their contracts and know their rights.

So get to studying (a bit at least) and become more aware of everything you are signing and accepting. It is the first step towards fighting for what we all want: equity.

Finally, a word of caution: reading about cases of gender pay gap might be discouraging, but it will help become aware of this reality and move you into taking action. Women who have found out they were underpaid did the right thing going to court, pushing complaints about it and raising their voice, giving power to those who were too afraid before. So go on and exercise your will, because the gender pay gap is as real as they come, and there are those who wish we would believe it is all just a myth.

 

This article is brought to you exclusively by The Business Transformation Network.

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Karolina Silva is a Psychologist with a MSc in Occupational and Business Psychology.

Experience in Counseling and HR, mainly in recruitment, career coaching, performance and organisational environment. Well-being and Mental Health promoter at work.