In the Western world the cause of women’s equality has made relentless progress for more than a century, from property ownership to voting rights, from expectations in dress to the right to work. Many democracies, from Israel to India and from Germany to the United Kingdom, have seen women elected to the highest political office. And yet, in spite of it all, there still exists in pockets a disparity between what a male and female employee doing the same job can expect to take home at the end of the month.
Often there are reasons behind this, if not valid excuses. Nevertheless, gender inequality remains a fact of life in employment after all these years and everything that we as a civilized society have been through. This study by Harvard University reveals that women in the US receive about eighty percent of what men are paid.
How Gender Inequality Costs Us All Dearly
Far from cutting costs and enhancing commercial profits, ongoing gender inequality actually works to the detriment of us all. Quite apart from the fact that a mother bringing home less money impacts upon her entire family, as the World Economic Forum correctly points out global wealth would increase by nearly $24,000 per head if women in the 141 countries researched earned us much as their male counterparts. Evidence of successful female entrepreneurs everywhere masks the truism that we still have a considerable way to go.
Construction is probably one of the industries in which inequality of opportunity is the most evident. Not just where it is most visible, on the building sites, but from plant and crane mat manufacturers to on-site clerical workers and ancillary staff. In construction there is almost an assumption of male exclusivity which deprives the industry of potentially some of its most useful contributors.
Positive Action to Close the Gender Pay Gap
Efforts are undoubtedly being made in some areas to reduce and hopefully soon to close the gap between male and female pay. In some societies this begins with policies to outlaw forced marriage and sexual and gender-based violence which has hitherto been considered acceptable or at least not sufficiently discouraged. In fourteen Western countries the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (WeFi) has sought to create billions of dollars of investment in female-owned or female-led businesses in developing countries.
But it is clear that working to change things in emerging economies will not resolve the issue of gender inequality for as long as pay differentials continue to exist everywhere in the world, including within the developed nations themselves. The problem of women being more predominant in areas of lower-paid and casual work persists, and can only be addressed with proactivity and perseverance.
Understanding issues of gender inequality in pay will help us to identify similar injustices in other areas, such as discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, age or disability. This fact alone demonstrates how all of us and indeed the global economy itself stand to benefit from tackling this thorny issue.