The biggest step(s) to pay equity

The biggest step(s) to pay equity

In the wake of Covid-19, economic inequalities in SA have come sharply into focus. The gender pay gap – despite much debate and new legislation both locally and internationally – is actually widening. This cannot be sidestepped for a number of critical reasons. The bigger picture is that women in SA head most households and often carry the cost of paying for their children and often grandchildren’s education – the stepping stone for the country’s future economic growth. In the corporate space, gender pay inequality continues to militate against workplace inclusivity and diversity – a known requirement for vastly improving any company’s bottom line.

The situation is well captured in a report from Accenture in South Africa: “The gender pay gap is an economic and competitive imperative that matters to everyone, and we must all take action to create significant opportunities for women and close the gap more quickly.”

The gender pay gap in South Africa is well above the global average of 20% and remains stubbornly stagnant, according to a March 2020 report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

While collective bargaining and the introduction of the national minimum wage have seen the gap narrowing for women in lower-earning jobs, the gap has actually widened and continues to do so for women in middle and upper pay levels.

And, yes, women are inadvertently part of the problem. Women tend to not always ask to be paid what they are worth. And women already in leadership positions need to do more to promote and advocate for women in corporate South Africa.

What steps can companies take to narrow this gap? One way would be to mandate reporting transparency in the form of detailed, gender pay-related information. Other steps include three powerful accelerators of change, which could enable the country to reach parity by 2041, according to experts:

  • Digital fluency – the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work;
  • Career strategy – the need for women to aim high, make informed choices, and manage their careers proactively; and
  • Tech immersion – the opportunity to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men.