We see headlines all the time about the gender pay gap but what exactly is it? How bad is the wage gap? And how can we be proactive in closing it to get better and fairer pay?
What is the gender pay gap? Simply put, this is the difference between men and women doing the same job. In Hong Kong, there is a 13 percent gap, which means that for the same job a man earns say $100, a woman will only earn $87. Another way to think of it is in terms of how much extra a woman needs to work in the same role as her colleague to make the same amount of money. For Hong Kong, this would mean a woman would need to work an additional seven weeks to be earning the same as her male counterpart. We take a closet look at the causes behind the gender gap and what we can do as a community to close it.
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Let’s Address The Elephant In Room: The Gender Pay Gap Across The World
Globally these numbers are worse, with the estimate that women earn 20 percent less than men in the same role. Women also carry out 2.5 times more unpaid work than men. It is estimated that it will take 257 years to close the gender pay gap globally and that this has been made worse by the Covid pandemic.
The gender pay gap has a significant impact on lifetime earning potential, retirement savings and investments which, considering our longer lifespan, can be a real problem. The World Bank estimates that gender equality would enrich the global economy by an estimated US$160 trillion if women were earning as much as men in the workplace. So what can be done?
What Causes The Gender Pay Gap?
Historically, the main cause of the wage gap was the educational disparity between men and women, with women expect to and being limited to finishing school and staying home while men were encouraged and given to opportunity to go on to university and higher studies. In today’s age, recent statistics from the Hong Kong Census Bureau show similar numbers of men and women going on to further education. So why is there still a persisting gap?
Does What We Study Lead To Gender Pay Gap?
Even though women and men get a similar level of education, on-the-whole we’re studying different subjects. When looking at Hong Kong students, arts and humanities subjects are more than 70 percent women while engineering and STEM courses are more than 70 percent men.
Male-dominated industries are prioritised and lionised, including science and engineering, and have a perceived need for specialised and technical skills, therefore having a potential for higher salaries due to increasing global demand. Once in the workplace, women in corporations have a tendency to be sidelined into “soft” skills such as HR or healthcare, which have traditionally lower wages.
Even in industries where the workforce starts with roughly even numbers, women are less likely to be promoted to leadership roles. For example, in the financial services industry, women go on to represent only 36 percent of managers, 2 percent of CEOs and 13.7 percent of board directors in HSI-listed companies.
A Shift In Interest And Career…
Fortunately, more women are challenging the status quo and pursuing roles that have been traditionally male, like STEM-based careers. Recent changes to listing requirements to mandate at least one female board member by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, are set to encourage more women in senior positions.
Women are still over-represented in lower-wage sectors with lower stability which have been hardest hit during the pandemic. Childcare is still regarded as a female duty. A woman with either none or one child is generally perceived as more committed to her career and thus deserving of a higher salary than a mother of three or more children.
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What Else Can Be Done At Workplaces?
Gender disparity and equality need to be a priority, and issues like bias against working mothers and the lack of women in board and executive positions should make the headlines. Training programs and corporate focus on diversity education have not really translated from intention to action.
Globally, the countries with the least gap are those with HR policies which benefit both men and women, such as flexible working and parental leave that can be taken by either gender. As Hong Kong tries to regain its status as a global financial hub, policies like these will become more vital to draw in global talent.
How We Can Close The Gender Pay Gap
Know your worth
Do your research and find out what others in your workspace are being paid. Websites like Glassdoor can be helpful, as can speaking to recruiters and friends in the industry.
Prepare for Appraisals
Annual raises are not assumed, and a higher salary is not a given just because a man in your position has one. Build your case for performance reviews and show your worth when asking for more money. Collect your positive feedback with real examples showing how you have improved, streamlined or added to the business in a real and measurable way.
Ask and Negotiate
Men are more likely than women to ask for a pay rise at work, research has found, and are likely to receive a larger sum when they do. A survey of 1,200 workers from the UK found two in three men (64%) were comfortable asking for a pay rise, compared to just 43% of women. More than half of women (55%) admitted they had never negotiated on their salary, compared to just 40% of men. And according to the findings, men were more likely to receive a larger pay rise.
Pervasive gender stereotypes and unconscious and structural bias all contribute to women being vastly under-represented in leadership positions and massively over-represented in administrative and part-time work. To accelerate change, we need both men and women to understand the issues and work together as allies in changing structures that widen these gender gaps.
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Main image courtesy of Getty, image 1 courtesy of Vasily Koloda via Unsplash, image 2 courtesy of Getty, image 3 courtesy of Gustavo Fring via Pexels.