Women all over the world earn less than men do and it does’t get spoken about enough. While I was in high school I certainly wasn’t aware of it. It’s taboo. You can’t really run around comparing pay checks between men and women in your office, and so it’s become this elephant in the corner of the room. We all know the gender pay gap exists, we just aren’t certain of how large it is. And, of course, the repercussions are widespread and result in women constantly being on the back foot – obviously there are exceptions to this, but it certainly affects the majority of women in the world.

The gender pay gap in South Africa

The University of Johannesburg recently published The SABPP Women’s Report 2015 which aims to explore the dynamic of equal pay for equal value and answer many of the questions that we have about the differences in remuneration between males and females in the South African workplace.  Here are some of the key takeouts for me:

Women in South Africa earn, on average, 15-17% less than men

The gender pay gap in South Africa is estimated to be between 15% and 17%. If this is true, it means that a South African woman would need to work an extra two months to earn the equivalent of what a man would in a year.

More than just the financial repercussions on women, companies benefit unfairly by perpetuating the historic trend of undervaluing women’s skills and contributions to the workplace.

Men are perceived as having a higher long-term value to a company

Why? There are so many contributing factors as to why organisations generally view women as being less valuable, and that’s a topic that I hope to explore in the coming weeks.

One of the contributing factors is that it’s assumed that women will be less loyal and more likely to stop working when they have children. Employers may then reach the conclusion that the long-term value of a woman is less than that of a man who ‘does not have care obligations outside the workplace’ – so what exactly are they saying? It’s implied that men don’t have equal responsibility of looking after and caring for their children. This view is so archaic, it makes me want to cry. This way of thinking is in line with the whole, ‘women must be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen’ mentality. Are we living in the 1950s?

Perhaps if men were given equal paternity leave, these kinds of things would balance out.

Why should we care? 

1. While we may like to believe otherwise, money is one of the largest contributors towards the quality of life of women and families.
2. Gender pay discrepancies are fraught with assumptions that cannot consistently or reasonably be explained.
3. The long-term economic success and competitiveness of a country depends on fully utilising available human capital – this means both men and women. Women need to take up their spot in the mainstream economy – as much for justice and equality as for economic productivity and efficiency.
4. A gender diverse workplace brings about diversity of thought. It’s been widely researched and proven that having a greater balance of males and females in the workplace results in a more successful and competitive organisation.

 The arguments for gender pay equality are extensive, and the reasons for the gender pay gap are equally as extensive. This article has barely scratched the surface.

In the coming weeks I hope to explore some of these topics – join me in the discussion! How do you think we could go about achieving greater pay equality? Why do you think there are still such discrepancies between the pay checks of men and women?