A Dollar Here, a Promotion There: Gender Gaps Are Everywhere

A Dollar Here, a Promotion There: Gender Gaps Are Everywhere

Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme of the day this year is “Pledge for Parity“—a call on men and women alike to “be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.” Those commitments are as necessary as ever, because unfortunately, neither the state of gender equality nor the pace of progress is anywhere near satisfactory. Several reports and studies released on the occasion of International Women’s Day highlight the urgency of the task at hand.

First, let’s look at the global picture of women’s workforce participation. The BBC highlights the findings of a new report from the International Labor Organization, showing that the gender gap in employment rates around the world has narrowed only slightly since 1995:

The report looked at data from 178 countries and found that rate of women’s participation in the workforce was 25.5% lower than men’s participation in 2015 – a gap only 0.6% smaller than 20 years earlier. In many regions of the world, women were more likely to stay unemployed – 6.2% of women are jobless across the world compared to 5.5% of men – and often had to accept lower quality jobs. The distribution of unpaid care and household work remains unequal in both high and lower income countries, the report said, although this gap has reduced. Women, however, continue to work longer hours per day than men when both paid work and unpaid work are taken into consideration. …

The report is one of a number of studies released ahead of International Women’s Day, which highlights gender inequalities around the world. Research by US-based audit and tax firm Grant Thornton found the rate of women in senior roles around the world had risen 3% in the past five years, to stand at 24%. Russia once again topped the ranking of countries with the highest percentage of women in senior business roles, followed by the Philippines and Lithuania, the report said.

This lackluster progress (or worse) is borne out in other studies of specific countries and industries. In the US, a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that the “gender wage gap for weekly full-time workers in the United States widened between 2014 and 2015”:

The median weekly earnings for full-time work increased for both women and men during 2015, but the increase was more substantial for men than women. In 2015, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings was 81.1 percent, a decrease of 1.4 percentage points since 2014, when the ratio was 82.5 percent. Women’s median weekly earnings for full-time work were $726 in 2015 compared with $895 for men. Controlling for inflation, women’s earnings increased by 0.9 percent, while men’s earnings increased by 2.6 percent since 2014.

In Canada, too, Oxfam and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have found that the pay gap between men and women has actually grown slightly in recent years. The CBC has the story:

While there are pockets of progress, on the whole, the report does not paint an encouraging picture. In 2009, women in Canada earned on average 74.4 per cent of what men earned. In 2010, it was 73.6 per cent, and in 2011, it was 72 per cent, roughly where it remains today. Doubters of the gender wage gap often argue that women earn less than men mainly because they work fewer hours, as a group, than men do. But Monday’s report says the data doesn’t back that up.

“The gap in men’s and women’s incomes is not simply the result of women working fewer hours,” the report said. “Nor is it the result of different levels of education and experience. Even when all of these factors are considered, the result remains the same: a wage gap.” … Part of the problem is that for whatever reason, women find themselves disproportionately represented in lower-paying industries. The report cites the example of truck drivers (the majority are men) who are paid an average of $45,417 per year, while Early Childhood Educators (the majority are women) are paid $25,252 per year.

And in the UK, a study by the staffing firm Robert Half finds that men typically earn £300,000 more than women over the course of their lifetimes:

The analysis also revealed that gross annual earnings for women last year grew by just 1.4% between 2014 and 2015 compared to 1.6% for men, which highlights the fact that the gender gap is getting larger rather than closing. Given men have on average higher salaries to begin with, the absolute difference is magnified still further.

The median gross pay for full-time male employees in 2015 was £29,934 but for women employees it is far lower at £24,202, well below the average annual UK earnings of £27,645. This represents a gender pay gap of £5,732, meaning that men earn, on average, 24% more than women every year.

Doubly embarrassing for Britain is the pay gap within the office of Nicky Morgan, the minister for women and equalities, where women make almost £2 per hour less than men. That’s not a great look for an office charged with promoting equality.

In the American tech industry, everyone knows about the gender gaps in pay, recruiting, and leadership, but there’s not much public data to work with because few companies report how their employees’ pay differs among men and women. However, the Guardian’s Suzanne McGee reports, one organization is putting pressure on tech firms to start disclosing that information:

Microsoft does not disclose any data about the extent to which men and women are paid differently for doing similar jobs. That may soon change, if Arjuna Capital succeeds in placing a resolution before Microsoft’s shareholders and convincing enough of them to vote in favor of it, thus requiring the company to publicly disclose that information for the first time and helping women make up their minds whether it’s really enough to trust to karma or not.

Arjuna, the activist arm of Baldwin Brothers, an investment advisory firm, is targeting seven high-profile technology firms, in search of precisely this information. Shareholders of eBay, Expedia, Facebook and Google will vote on proposals that would result in the creation of reports detailing the percentage pay gap between male and female employees, spelling out both corporate policies, in an attempt to address how the companies would set about closing or narrowing that gap, and specific targets.

In the UK’s financial sector, meanwhile, a new survey by the Association of Accounting Technicians shows that not only do women make less than men and have fewer opportunities for advancement, most men working in the industry have no idea:

2,000 finance employees were surveyed by the AAT. The research reveals that while 28% of men in the finance sector want to earn £10,000 more on top of their current salary, only 14% of women said the same. Men in finance are also more prone to ask for pay rises than women. 26% of the polled men had asked for a pay rise in the last year, compared to 18% of women. The research also reveals that 60% of men believe both genders have equal opportunities to climb the company career ladder. Only 43% of the women said the same. …

AAT is not the only organisation to highlight the disparity between how the genders are being paid in the finance sector. Emolument.co.uk has surveyed 4,700 UK front office bankers. The survey reveals that while male traders on average earn £150,000, female traders are only paid on average £72,000. For bankers working in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), men earned £140s00 and women earned £111,000.