The gender pay gap is the difference between average earnings for working men and women. Women are generally paid less than men, including when they do the same work.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap, also called the gender wage gap, refers to the difference in pay between working men and women. Women generally receive a lower remuneration than their male colleagues when doing the same work.

It’s a persistent and systemic problem, born out of a multitude of interconnected factors.

Discriminatory hiring and compensation practices

These contribute significantly, as women face bias in the recruitment process, are less considered for promotion opportunities, and have limited leverage during salary negotiations.

Societal norms and expectations continue to fuel the pay gap

Societal norms and expectations contribute to gender imbalances and pay disparities. Inadequate policies regarding family leave and childcare place an unfair burden on women, limiting their career advancement and earning potential.

Gender stereotypes lead to career barriers for women

The upholding of gender-biased stereotypes has resulted in women encountering barriers when applying for leadership roles, and facing unequal career growth opportunities. 

To change the tide of the pay gap, it’s absolutely critical that we respond to these complex dynamics with inclusive interventions, such as promoting transparent hiring practices, implementing policies that are fair and inclusive, and addressing gender biases with targeted interventions.

A form of structural inequality

Women still earn approximately 13 % less than men, even when they’re doing the same job. The gender pay gap reflects the structural inequality that exists on the job market across industries.

However, because it doesn’t have one singular cause, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that can fix it. Disparities in pay that stem from gender discrimination have to be affronted from many different angles that take into account social, legal and economic factors.

Strategies should include: 

To narrow the gap, it is also important that we identify gender norms that harm and discriminate.

Occupational segregation – one of the main causes

Occupational segregation is the motherlode of the gender pay gap. It’s rooted in gender bias, which starts from a very early age, shaping our ideas and views of the world, dictating the roles of girls and boys, fundamentally through stereotyping.

These rigid ideas about gender roles limit our expectations as we grow older. They also influence our occupational choices, which leads to a stereotypical segregation in the job market.

Occupational segregation can be divided into two types: vertical segregation and horizontal segregation. Read more about them below:

Vertical segregation

Vertical segregation refers to women and men doing different levels of work. In this sense, men occupy roles at senior levels, while women are stuck in low paid, low skill jobs with little chances of breaking the loop.

Horizontal segregation

Horizontal segregation refers to the over- or underrepresentation of women or men in certain occupations. Jobs that are traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’ are also lower paid. 

For example, heavy manual work is usually done by men, while cleaning and catering jobs are usually occupied by women.

The pay gap viewed through a glass ceiling

Horizontal segregation is often compared to the glass ceiling concept. It refers to a metaphorical barrier that prevents women from being hired for top-ranked positions at a company. 

This often results in women getting paid less than their male colleagues, and not getting promoted. It is a direct result of gender inequality and unconscious bias in the workplace.

Pay gap between men and women

The consequences of the gender pay gap can take many different forms. Unequal pay will often lead to fewer opportunities for women, promotion discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Women end up facing financial insecurity and diminished savings, limiting their economic empowerment.

Furthermore, the gender pay gap strongly contributes to reinforcing stereotypes and thwarting diversity, which, on a wider scale, has socioeconomic implications that stall economic growth and harm productivity.

Can the wage gap be narrowed?

Because there are so many factors that play into the gap, fixing it requires many different strategies. Together, they can contribute to a more equitable working environment. 

Some of these strategies include implementing more robust policies around parental leave and childcare, fostering transparent wage practices, and identifying unconscious bias and gender discrimination in the hiring process and during pay negotiations.  

These proactive measures require time and effort on an individual and company level. However, starting the journey towards achieving equal pay for equal work is critical, especially if we want a more equitable workplace culture that values and rewards talent, regardless of gender. 

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