On my way to university, I heard two women chatting beside me on the train and I couldn't help but eavesdrop at the horrors exchanged in their dialogue. They were engrossed in discussing or rather denouncing the daughter-in-law of one of their acquaintances for her values and time devoted to her family. From what I heard, they believed that she doesn't contribute much to the household chores as she continues to work after marriage (a heinous crime apparently) and comes home late. One of them said that this is bound to happen when women study too much.
This made me spiral into thinking about what most women, both married or unmarried, but mostly married, living with huge families and kids go through. They work from 9-5 or more I assume, complete their chores, handle their kids and still are not compensated enough for the same, be it the remuneration at their jobs in terms of money or the healthcare and safety provisions, and, on top of that, they are conveniently expected to undertake relentless unpaid work at home.
Even after all the effort that women put in every sphere of life, they still earn less respect and salary than their male counterparts for the same job, irrespective of their qualification and experience, contingent merely on their gender. Because women are child-bearers and menstruators who expect the bare minimum of maternity and period leaves as an employee. Because women can't lead teams as capably as their male counterparts, since they aren't dominant by birth.
This led me to realise that the gender-pay-gap is one of the most exploitative and discriminative features of our economic systems staring us in the face. One would expect a better system of rewards based on one’s merit and calibre, but even in the 21st century only six countries in the world, namely, Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden grant men and women equal legal work rights, which is a concept as old as only a decade, according to a report by The Guardian.
Even so, bringing about legal changes does not translate into effective actions. In Sweden, women still earn about 5% less than their male counterparts and, globally, women earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to a man - which might not sound like a huge gap in theory but again, this is just a statistic which might not even reflect the actual situation flailing about in our system. It might not even consider the many women who are employed in the informal sectors of developing countries or are labouring away in the agricultural-sector without reaping any significant benefits out of it.
The wage gap exists for women of all educational backgrounds - from high school graduates to women with advanced degrees. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, this gap ranges from three dollars for women having an education level of less than high school to twelve dollars for women with advanced degrees. This is the opposite of what one would expect and a strong argument against how gender-wage-gap stems from the lower education levels of women. The gap only widens as the level of education increases, which is testament to the fact that the more literate and intelligent the woman, the more of a threat she is made out to be.
However, this bias is not limited to merely the pecuniary aspect of the work culture; it is deeply embedded in how women are treated in offices, always put on a rung lower than men, listened to but never heard or appreciated. From bearing the ‘motherhood penalty’ to being biologically ‘complicated’, women around the world are stifled at every step of their way to success. A recent American study deduced the average by which women’s future wages fall—at 4% per child, and 10% for the highest-earning, most skilled white women.
Women are considered assets as long as they do not ask for anything that lies outside the zone of anyone's convenience - be it providing maternity leaves or transportation for late work hours. And are also looked at like a nuisance for any lawsuits and uncomfortable conversations.
After the famous #MeToo movement, many companies and men in position suggested that hiring a woman nowadays can prove to be a risky investment because everything these days leads to lawsuits. Blaming the MeToo movement, many men claim that they are afraid to be alone with women in the workspace or hesitant to be around in their close vicinity - which is a complete rationalisation of the actions that are not okay in any workspace. And these men flagrantly choose to ignore that the issue doesn’t lie in women’s capability to live by the rules created by men but in men’s inability to treat them like human beings with boundaries that are to be respected.
Zomato, a food-delivery service was one of the first major-league companies in India to grant paid period leaves - an action heavily slated by men. Even so, only bringing a policy in place doesn't seem enough to provoke a change because most women might be hesitant to take those leaves due to the pronounced stigma around menstruation and being considered weak and fragile for going through with it. Menstruation is not given enough medical importance, contingent on how potent its symptoms can be- from nausea and backache to stomach cramps that can invalidate any healthy and strong person. The hope is that with policies like these there is wider acceptance towards the gravity of this issue without it being used as a pretext for inequality or inferiority in the workplace.
Even though women are more substantially employed now, occupying more positions in the workspace than before especially in developed countries, the proportion of women in managerial and top executive positions still remains abysmally low and according to the Enterprise Survey by the World Bank, only 18% of businesses had a female CEO. On the other hand in legislatures, the proportion of women is approximately 24%. Women, in their entirety, comprise less than one-fourth of the major domains of the working world.
The issue is not just gender-based discrimination but also discrimination against occupations that are majorly dominated by women. Professions of nurses, teachers, secretaries, child-care workers are found to be respected less and paid less too. According to a report by The Economist, Primary teachers in the OECD countries earn 81% of the average for graduate jobs.
This issue leads to a polarity in the jobs pursued by men and women and thus demotivates and intimidates women to take up jobs in the field of law and litigation, engineering and the police force. It is found that only 3.5% of women are firefighters, which is one of the most heavily male-dominated industries next to male technicians and mechanics who dominate 99.19% of the industry. Even something as universal as religion is dominated by men, according to the Insider, only 17.6% of the clergy is female. And I am pretty sure this is not pertinent only to America but most of the world.
Thus, an important solution to gender-wage-gap is the migration of genders from female-dominated sectors to the male-dominated sectors and vice-versa. As important as it is for women to pursue fields that are considered too ambitious for them, it is equally imperative for men to be accepted in industries that are primarily governed by women. It is also important for the parental-care axle to shift from mothers, who drop out of the workforce or shift to less-intensive jobs to take care of their children to fathers, with a higher emphasis on the implementation of paternity leaves.
While discussing gender-based discrimination, to not consider the prejudice faced by trans people and other non-binary genders in the workplace would be unjust to the cause of equal wages for all. Trans people have even lesser representation and provisions to fall back on than women in the workplace and face persistent abuse and hiring-discrimination throughout the world, but more so in third-world and developing countries. Let alone provisions in the workplace, third-world countries like Kenya, Uganda, Senegal and Haiti do not even have basic anti-discriminatory laws for trans people. The transgender social acceptance rate, according to a report by Kimberly Tower is -2 whereas, in countries like India, Nepal and Argentina, it is positive yet wretchedly low, that is, 3, 2 and 1.5 respectively. Thus, there is still a long way to go for other genders to have equal remuneration and dignity as our patriarchal lords in the workplace.
These statistics and facts only substantiate the actuality of domination of men in most sectors of the world, which leads to the gender-wage-gap. This majority that men enjoy in legislation, business or the sciences, is what propagates ideas, policies and products fabricated by men, which more often than not are not gender-friendly. Representation is salient as it leads to better targeted economic and social policies which will help bridge this widening gap and actualise acceptance - thus ameliorating the social and economic status of minority genders.
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