Quartz’s Maria Thomas highlights new data from the Monster Salary Index, released by the online employment portal Monster India, showing that the longer Indian women work, the more their pay lags behind that of their male peers:
Data for 2017 show Indian women with three to five years of experience earn marginally higher median wages (1.09%) than men at the same level. But the tide begins to turn once employees have six to 10 years of experience, with men earning 15.3% more than women. And at over 11 years of experience, the gender pay gap becomes a startling 25%. …
These figures are particularly frustrating given all the obstacles women must typically overcome in the first place to make it to the top of their fields. To begin with, India’s conservative society still identifies bearing and caring for children as a woman’s primary role. That makes it incredibly difficult to juggle household responsibilities alongside professional ones. All the more so after childbirth—that is if at all new mothers are allowed to return to the workplace. Among those who are, only a lucky few can expect a reliable support system, including childcare facilities and flexible timings.
These challenges are by no means specific to India. Studies in the US and UK have also found that the gender pay gap starts small and grows over the course of people’s careers, with marriage and children playing a role in holding back the growth of women’s earnings as they either make sacrifices in their own career to accommodate their spouse’s, take career breaks to raise children, or find themselves shut out of promotions and stretch assignments due to family obligations (if not outright gender bias).
Because the gender role expectations placed on Indian women are even more restrictive than those of their peers in Western countries, the obstacle is that much greater, but not qualitatively different.
Mindful of this issue, India’s government, large employers, and entrepreneurs have taken steps to make it easier for women to remain in the workforce after having children. Last year, the Indian parliament passed a law entitling working mothers to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave after adding the first two children to their family, and 12 weeks for each child after that. The law also requires employers of a certain size to provide access to child care facilities and encourages employers to offer flexible work arrangements for mothers in their workforce if the nature of the work allows it.
Women dropping out of the workforce due to motherhood is a problem for employers as well, as they lose valuable talent and incur the expense of replacing women who leave. Over the past two years, major employers including Tata Sons, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, and Taj Hotels, the country’s largest hotel chain, have rolled out new benefits meant to attract and retain working mothers, such as maternity, child care, adoption, and surrogacy leave, as well as flexible scheduling and remote work opportunities.
The Indian startup community has also been exploring innovative solutions to help Indian women maintain their independence and continue to participate in the workforce. One entrepreneur launched a dedicated platform to connect women with flexible career opportunities, while two others set up a women-only co-working space in Chennai where self-employed women, freelancers, students, and other independent workers can take advantage of facilities specially designed to meet the needs of working women, including pregnant women and mothers of small children.