EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK: Ending pay gaps & income inequalities – for increased organisational performance & profit maximization

AS the renowned American social political activist, writer and lecturer Gloria Steinem celebrated her 89th birthday in the beautiful shores of our mighty Zambezi River here in Zambia last week, I recalled on a conversation we shared passionately – in her Lexington home in New York a few years ago, where she’d invited me during one of the UN-Commission on the Status of Women meetings. We reflected on how many women remain trapped in jobs for which they are over-qualified or beneath their worth.

We agreed that the problem of unequal pay faced mostly by women in our respective countries, and around the world, need urgent attention and cure.

On that cold icy day, over green tea and fresh bakes, I recall learning from her and sharing on diverse issues surrounding economic inequality faced by a modern woman, some of which include;

Income inequality which is the extent to which income is distributed unevenly in our society and general pay inequalities

Wealth inequality between male and female folks

Gender bias in education-across board

The gender pay gap: Developing countries continue to face this challenge

Gender disparities in agriculture: statistics show that women are still lagging here

Poor access to healthcare: Zambia has continued to stagger in this area

Poor access to Water, Health & Hygiene- WASH; a problem that our country Zambia continues face

Child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence.

Lack of representation for women and girls at policy level.

Equal pay for equal work

This is a concept of labour rights that aim to reduce gender inequalities in a workplace by giving equal for equal work done to employees regardless of their gender; that men and women be given equal pay for equal work.

In progressive economies, governments have deliberately created laws trough “Equal Pay Acts.”

These legal frameworks suggest that the jobs do not necessarily have to be identical, but they must be substantially equal, and through these laws, unequal pay in the workplace can lead to complaints to human resources and potential litigation.

Should a case go to court, businesses may be liable for lost wages, emotional damage, and legal costs.

Gender pay gap

This is the difference between the average pay for all men compared to the average pay of all women in an organisation. In other words, it is where men are found to be paid more than women, for the same or similar work done.

Research extract on equal opportunities in work places

To understand where we are coming from with the issue of gender discrimination in working places, and where we are coming from with issues leading to pay inequalities, let us take a look at an extract from a Research Paper here, ìBernadette Deka-Zulu, 2021, ìassessing the progress of implementation of gender mainstreaming in Zambiaís social-economic sector, The University of Zambiaî

“Gender discrimination in the workplace is not a new phenomenon; it has been a challenge for decades. For many years, organisations have been grappling with this issue and attempting to devise initiatives to mitigate its impact.

Reskin and Hartmann (1986) conducted a study in the United States (U.S.) and discovered that, even though opportunities for women’s careers had greatly expanded, sex discrimination was still prevalent.

The study also discovered that sex segregation in the workplace is influenced by cultural attitudes, socialisation, unequal educational and training opportunities, and family responsibilities.

Globally, progress toward eradicating gender inequalities in the workplace has been hampered by numerous impediments. According to the findings of a study conducted in Malaysia by Kaur, et al., (2017), the process of achieving gender equality in the Malaysian workplace is still slow, despite efforts to ensure the implementation of gender diversity and inclusion programmes within organisations.

At the same time, a lack of motivation at work, combined with employee job dissatisfaction, usually has a negative impact on workplace performance. Octaviannand, et al., (2017) discovered that highly motivated employees who are satisfied with their jobs perform better than those who are not in a study to assess how job satisfaction and motivation affect employee performance in Kuningan, South Jakarta.

In the United Kingdom, many competent women are typically forced to choose between their family and workplace responsibilities by taking lower-level part-time jobs that offer lower grades and remuneration, fewer training and growth opportunities, and a lower retirement pension.

Lyonette (2015) claims that despite policy changes at the European Union (EU) level aimed at improving the quality and availability of part-time jobs, they had little impact on the UK job market because part-time jobs are still undervalued in organisations.

Managing issues of gender and mature age among employees is a common challenge for Australian organisations.

Dahanayake et al., (2017) concluded in a study that issues of gender and mature employees in the workplace necessitate organisations implementing diversity management by employing the concepts of justice and fairness.

Daverth, et al., (2016) discovered that managers typically focus on the life aspect of work-life balance, whereby they consider parenting issues to be fundamental, in another study conducted among 35 Irish managers to determine how perceptions of fairness affect decision making by line managers.

Daverth et al., (2016) assert that line manager’s use their decision-making powers on formal and informal work-life balance issues to minimise injustice within their departments.

According to research, gender responsiveness in organisations leads to improved employee performance. Noting that gender inequity has hampered global progress toward health equity, Pederson, et al., (2015) argue that gender responsiveness within a program or policy can help reduce health inequities related to gender while also increasing the acceptance, relevance, and success of health promotion initiatives.

In another study conducted by Steyn and Jackson (2015) among 1, 740 employees in South Africa to assess whether job grading and salaries for male and female employees differed based on gender, rather than quantifiable variables, it was discovered that male employees held higher positions and salaries than their female counterparts, though the difference was statistically insignificant.

Because of hostile working environments, married and older women have been kept out of journalism practice and, in particular, senior management levels for many years.

According to Melki and Farah (2014), some of the factors that have led to women’s discrimination over the years include sexual harassment and gender discrimination practices, institutional policies and cultures that are hostile to women with families, and a patriarchal cultural mentality. Although many media organisations have gender mainstreaming policies.

Mugwe (2012) notes that there has been little or no indication of initiatives in Kenya to ensure equal opportunities for employment, training, and advancement for men and women.

Okono (2013) recommended in a related study that management in organisations should spearhead the development of gender-responsive policies to ensure that discrimination in recruitment, promotion, and division of labour is eliminated, as this would result in more qualified women competing for senior positions and being recruited into leadership positions.

The study, which was conducted in Kenya, also found that many full-time female journalists are unaware of institutional policies, such as those governing sexual harassment, maternity leave, and gender parity in hiring.

In Zambia, Banda (2015) discovered that little was done to address the concerns raised in the National Strategy for Gender Mainstreaming (2000), such as the incorporation of gender mainstreaming concerns.

There is a lack of understanding of the concept of gender and gender mainstreaming, as well as a lack of capacities for gender mainstreaming, low representation of women in decision making, a lack of clear guidelines for gender budgeting, and a weak institutional framework for gender mainstreaming among stakeholders.

The Water and Sanitation sector has not developed an institutional policy for gender mainstreaming, resulting in a lack of implementation.”

Benefits of equal pay

In this research extract, we can see that according to research, gender responsiveness in organisations leads to improved employee performance.

Offering benefits that observe equal rights, when businesses offer equal pay, they create a more competitive workforce that can provide their business with a wide range of benefits especially in line with profits, maximising staff full potential among other benefits.

Organisational pay systems that reward employees equally for the same amount of work demonstrate your organisation’s values to employees especially in the wake of equity and inclusion.

Progressive organisations/institutions will not ignore the concept of equal pay for equal work in this day.


Remedies to end/reduce unequal pay and gender inequalities

First step for organisations to correct unequal practices/ gender pay gaps is by firstly conducting pay equity audits.

As awareness is the first step to solving a problem, there is need to look for discrepancies between pay rates and ensure all employees of equal experience and in similar roles are paid the same – no matter their gender or race.

After t a pay audit has been conducted, these recommendations can be considered: Re-evaluate hiring, promotion, bonus and benefit packages and ensuring that hiring and promotions are fair;

Making sure women have equal opportunities for advancement and making it a norm for women to negotiate. 

Encouraging salary negotiations and increasing pay transparency is also essential while implementing fair scheduling practices.

Lastly, by supporting promotion and pay transparency and conducting training (for Human Resource teams) on diversity, unconscious bias and conscious inclusion will seal it.

This article is inspired by a living icon, a world champion of gender equality and an uplifter of humanity, Ms Gloria Steinem. She has given the world 89 years of dedication for social change that has impacted not only women but men as well.

I end with one of her famous quotes: ‘The first resistance to social change is to say it is not necessary.”

Henceforth, I dare to say that equal pay for equal work, for all, is necessary.

Happy 89th birthday Ms Gloria Steinem and thank you for having chosen to celebrate it in Zambia (bernadettedekazulu@gmail.com) 

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