Gender pay gap stirs controversy


The battle for gender 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.
This week, international media reported that one of the most senior journalists at the BBC, Carrie Gracie, resigned from her post as China editor because of the gender pay gap at the corporation.
Gracie has accused the BBC of having a “secretive and illegal” pay culture and said that the corporation is breaking equality laws. She has worked for the BBC for 30 years and has said she wants to return to her old post in the BBC newsroom, where she expects to be paid “equally”.
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.
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 vulnerability 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.
Two years ago, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 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.
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.
Talking to us earlier, rights act iv i s t, Martha Kwataine, said the onus is on the political leadership to create and entrench deliberate policies aimed at holding employers accountable to the welfare and recognition of women in the workplace.
Kwataine said if there is political will to invest in and empower women, Malawi will register progress on issues of gender equality, noting that the same is not true when top leadership is not passionate with uplifting women’s status.
‘Most political leaders simply make podium statements, which makes it difficult for authorities to hold employers accountable if they do not comply. There is need to create deliberate policies in the Constitution of Malawi that will foster an enabling environment for women to prosper and enjoy equal status as men,” she said.
Kwataine further said Malawi needs to do proper studies to determine how many women are actually influencing decision making in both the public and private sectors.
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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