International Women’s Day: a balanced workplace starts with equal pay
March 8th is the international day of women and in honour of all the women in the workplace, I will be talking about the gender pay gap.
Now more than ever, it is important to highlight the fact that most women are paid less than their male colleagues. For doing the same job.
While some people (mostly members of the opposite sex) argue that this is not exactly true and that the gender pay gap doesn’t exist; strong evidence all around proves otherwise.
I will give you four different real personal experiences about Equal Pay and Equal Opportunity.
I once went for an interview where I was categorically told that they wouldn’t hire me because they wanted a guy. And I wasn’t hired.
Before you say that could have also happened to a guy, here’s another story I experienced.
A former boss (male) once told me that when he saw my name on my CV, he thought I was a guy, and that’s why he granted the interview. When I came in for the interview and he saw I was female, he said he was quite disappointed. And that he only continued the interview just because I was already there. However because I made such a strong impression during the interview, I got the job.
When I asked him why he did not want a female, his response was that:
“Women’s *wahala can be too much”.
While he is entitled to his personal opinion, this perception is totally unfair to the millions of hardworking women out there who are giving their all as they try to make a living.
The third instance of gender inequality was told to me by a female colleague at work. She told me of how she stumbled on the payslip of a male colleague who was a level below her. And discovered that they were earning just about the same thing. Meanwhile, she had been working in the company as a full-staff for about 2 years before the guy came in as a National Youth Service Corp member.
The last instance I will be sharing was actually the most poignant because the discrimination came from a woman herself.
A female friend and I were chatting and somehow we got talking about women in the workplace. And a statement she made left me speechless for some seconds.
She said that if she was a business owner and was presented with an equally qualified man and woman for a job, she would rather pick the man than the woman.
Now this female friend of mine is someone who is normally very “pro-women” and before now I could have even described her as a feminist. So you can imagine how shocked (and betrayed) I felt.
However, she shed more light on her stance.
Coming from an HR background, she had done her fair share managing personnel. She explained how a woman could need to take about 4 to six months paid ‘vacation’ from work for child-bearing. Coupled with the days she has to close early, resume late, or even be absent from work due to all the demands of raising a child/children.
So from a business point of view, it would be more cost effective to hire a man than a woman. My first response to her was “But that’s not fair! What if they do that to you?”
And in a matter of fact tone she replied, “Life isn’t fair, neither is business designed to be fair. And yes they already did and still do it to me, but it is what it is”
Here is my own take on the equal pay and equal opportunity issue.
There are certain things that come with certain territories.
When working with humans, you need to close or change shifts every night so they could go home to rest and come back ready to jump back into work.
If working with machines, you still need to give them some idle time else they will pack up.
When working with women, you need to give them time off for procreation.
These things come with the territory. And their unique requirements should be factored into the whole business process so that work progresses as planned.
While ideally, no employer likes to pay staff for several months off work, it happens. And when it happens, they should accept that it comes with the territory and have a working plan to accommodate it.
Women taking time off work for maternity leave and the likes is part of the circle of life.
If the employer’s mother hadn’t been able to rest properly when pregnant, she probably would have had a miscarriage or even lost her life from work stress, or been forced to have an abortion, or even decide not to even have a baby since it counts against her at work.
The only reason we are all alive here and able to be arguing over the existence or lack of existence of the gender gap, is because of the sacrifices our mothers made. The sacrifice of doing all it takes to carry us safely to full term during pregnancy.
Owners of companies (male and female) also reap the benefits of this sacrifice. In turn, they should also make their own sacrifice by:
- Giving women equal employment opportunities in the workplace
- Making women’s pay equal to that of their male counterparts
- Stopping gender discrimination in any form.
As individuals, let’s all fight for equal pay and equal opportunities by speaking up for gender equality. Everyone (male & female) should loudly speak against inequality and discrimination whenever we see or hear of one.
Until the next post…
*Wahala is Nigerian slang for troubles or issues.