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Battle to win pay equity

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The battle to win gender pay equality seems far from being won and some commentators have called for more action to be implemented by governments worldwide, including Malawi, to address the disparities.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) valuing employees by ensuring pay equity should be an important component in a company’s hiring and retention strategies.

However, women continue to earn less than men for work of equal value and the existing gender pay gap threatens to slow down efforts to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

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Earlier in January this year, BBC senior editor, Carrie Gracie, resigned from her post accusing the corporation of perpetrating gender pay inequality.

Gracie accused the BBC of having a “secretive and illegal” pay culture and said that the corporation is breaking equality laws. At the time of her resignation, Gracie had worked for the BBC for 30 years.

Commenting on the developments, General Secretary of the Communications Workers Union (Cowuma) Hamilton Deleza, said the situation is likely to be the same locally as Malawi does not have specific strategies to address gender pay gaps.

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Deleza said, going forward, there is need to engage a multi-stakeholder strategy to win the battle as working in isolation has proved to be ineffective.

“All relevant stakeholders, including employers, government, trade unions and gender organisations must work hand in hand to overcome the challenge,” he said.

In his observations, Deleza said some of the underlying reasons leading to the disparities include high levels of unemployment, women vulnerabilities and secretive nature of individual pay.

“People are not aware of salary structures at most work places. It has been observed that most organisations that have open salary structures are likely to have reduced incidents of gender pay gaps as employees are able to tell each other information on grading and remuneration,” he said.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has since forecast that it may take up to 71 years before pay equity between men and women can be achieved.

According to the ILO, a gender gap persists, where women, with or without children, are earning on average 77 percent of what men are currently earning.

The ILO further says that while there have been many achievements on gender equality since the Beijing Declaration on women rights was signed by 189 governments in 1995, women are only marginally better off with respect to equality at work.

“Stories of widespread discrimination and inequality are a common feature in most workplace environments across the globe with women often being offered under-valued and low paying jobs,” the labour body said in one of its briefing noted prepared for International Women’s Day.

Even though the percentage of women in top management and in positions of political leadership has improved, ILO observes that women only head five percent of Fortune 500 companies, and only one out of 12 governments worldwide.

Employers while acknowledging the attempts by governments, both past and present, to enforce deliberate policies for women inclusion, have conceded that much more still needs to be done to turn around the fortunes of women in the workplace.

Speaking earlier, Executive Director of the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam), Beyani Munthali, said going forward, there is need to expand the recruitment base to increase competencies instead of just awarding influential positions to women based on their gender.

“There is no point in recruiting women to boards of directors at any price. There is need to do more research that can inform policy decisions to ensure that men and women in the workplace are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices,” he said.

According to the ILO, globally, the gap in labour market participation rates between men and women has decreased only marginally since 1995 with about 50 percent of women working compared to 77 percent of men.

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