By Ashika Jain & Krupa Naik
What is a gender-based pay gap? It is the average difference between the remuneration for men and women working the same job.
Research indicates that for every rupee earned by a man in India, women earn 81 paise for the same work done, interestingly this widens across higher skill level dropping down almost up to 70 paise for the women for high skilled occupations.
Some glaring statistics indicated by the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap 2020 Report, there are 72 countries where women are barred from opening a bank account or obtaining credit, and there is no country in the world where men spend the same amount of time on unpaid work as men, countries with the lowest ration it is still 2:1. This brings us to an important aspect of the gender gap – unequal pay.
Gender-based pay gap is an all-pervasive phenomenon affecting women in all industries – from the glamorous movie industry to the hourly labour industry. The basis for such an unequal pay scale lies in the stereotypical gender roles enforced on ‘females’. The social power imbalance perpetuated by these stereotypes is always working against individuals identifying as female.
Let us examine how this came to be. Historically, women have been considered to be the gentler, ‘weaker sex’ who are required to focus their energy on unpaid work of caring for their spouse, children, other family members, home and then if they wish, they may or may not be allowed to invest some energy into paid work. Now because women traditionally have not always been available for full-time paid work, their wages were understandably lower than that of their male counterparts usually doing full-time work. The disparity, based on the patriarchal assumption that women are not available to invest their full energy and or resources into paid work as they are mandatorily having to invest some (if not most) of their energy into the unpaid work demanded of them, became more glaring when more and more women were getting into full-time roles.
This false assumption stood the test of time and failed hardworking women time and over again. The patriarchal society has made it difficult for women to thrive outside of their traditional role within the household.
Over time, these stereotypical gender roles have given rise to multiple biases which additionally work against women. One such bias is the ‘Brilliance Bias’, which assumes that men are promoted based on their ‘potential’ versus women are promoted based on their ‘current capability’. Simply explained, women have to work much harder to be recognized and seen as capable of rising through the ranks whereas men simply have to “show promise” to be seen and monetarily rewarded/validated.
Since a lot of women’s self-esteem and self-confidence is derived from their work – after all, they spend a great deal of time and invest a lot of energy in the workplace – it can be deeply upsetting to see their time and effort being undervalued and underappreciated simply because of peoples’ ingrained biases.
This gives insight into the incorrect and unhealthy set of roles and biases that are failing women and their brilliance every day. The unequal social structure we live in breaks down resilience and hampers the wellbeing of women world over. Add to this, unequal reward structures can potentially impact women’s mental health as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) comments that risk factors for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women include income inequality. The extent of harm and suffering caused by a simple act unequal pay is grave – affecting not only women but also adversely denting the lives of those attached to them. A 2016 study by Columbia University has found that when women make less money for the same work compared to their male counterparts, they are 2.4 times more likely to experience depression and four times more likely to experience anxiety.
When we speak of equal opportunity, addressing and bridging the gender gap is a non-negotiable area. There is much need for social reform in this area and some silver linings have been witnessed. Along with activism led by women, crucial support has also been received by those whom this pay gap does not directly affect – the men. Some men belonging to the movie industry have refused to accept movie offers until the female leads were promised equal pay. These are much needed acts of solidarity that women the world over need, after all, one of the key factors highly protective against the development of mental health problems issupport from family, friends and peers.
Living in a world where there is a lopsided representation of one half of the population in economic participation and opportunity, we need legislation to change along with changes in societal/cultural attitudes towards unpaid work and childcare – starting with educating the younger generation. As long as this is not corrected, women’s career opportunities will continue to be undermined and the resultant gender pay group will be left unresolved.
- ‘Brilliance’ Bias Favoring Men Affects Gender Parity At Work: Study
- How the gender pay gap affects women’s mental health
- Gender Pay Gap Contributes to Increased Rates of Depression and Anxiety Among Women
- The gender pay gap is harming women’s health
- Gender and women’s mental health
- Uncovering the hidden impacts of inequality on mental health: a global study
- Unequal Depression for Equal Work? How the wage gap explains gendered disparities in mood disorders
- The missing 235m – Why India needs women to work | Leaders
- Global Gender Gap Report 2020