Gender Pay Gap: The Latest Data and How We Can Close It

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val.aragon@salarium.com
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The gender pay gap still exists, and, as leaders and people managers, we have one of the biggest stakes in closing it. The fact that women have yet to earn as much as men keeps us from building a stronger workforce. It ushers in a host of problems we work hard to avoid every day: unnecessary turnover, skill shortages, missed opportunities for business growth, and even a bad rap among young and driven jobseekers.

The Philippines holds a reputation as one of the most gender-inclusive countries in the world. In the World Economic Foum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2016, we ranked 7th among 144 economies all over the world — and 1st among all Asian countries) — in terms of distributing resources and opportunities equally among men and women. But here’s the catch: the same study says we haven’t fully closed the gender gap in both economic participation and political empowerment. A prior report shows that there’s still a gender pay difference of less than 10% in the Philippines. Local data, on the other hand, reveal that women remain less represented in the labor force than men. The gap persists even though we’ve fared well in gender equality rankings.

Nevertheless, latest research shows that we’re likely to close the gap soon, and that there are concrete ways to do so. According to a study conducted by Accenture, those graduating in 2020 could be the first generation in history to see the gender pay gap closed; that is, if today’s young women made strategic career choices, and if governments, businesses, and schools provided the necessary support. In order to arrive at this conclusion, Accenture surveyed more than 28,000 men and women belonging to three generations in 29 countries. Philippines is one of the countries that participated in the study.

Closing the gender pay gap

Accenture’s study reveals that women earn an average of $100 for every $140 that men receive. Adding to the inequality is the fact that women are much less likely than men to have paid work. On average, men have a 76% chance of getting monetary compensation for the work that they’ve done. Women, on the other hand, only have a 50% shot at earning their keep.

But here’s a beacon of hope: The study also tells us that, by 2066, these numbers can change in favor of the gender pay gap’s demise in developing countries like the Philippines.

How will that happen? Accenture lays down three “equalizers” that women and stakeholders should focus and work on: digital fluency, career strategy, and technology immersion. Get these three right, suggests the study, and we may all see the gender pay gap close even as early as 2030.

Digital fluency

Digital fluency is defined as “the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work. The study tells us that if more women engaged in (or were given the opportunity to engage in) taking computer or coding courses, adopting new technology, and learning new digital skills, the global pay gap could go down by 21% in 2030.

Career strategy

The study says that, to balance the pay scales, women need to “aim high, make informed choices, and manage their careers proactively.” It’s important that they get a mentor, aspire to be in a leadership post., and choose an area of study that offers a high earning potential.

Tech immersion

As it turns out, fewer women dabble in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and equip themselves with digital skills compared to their male peers. The study reveals that some actions that have been known to accelerate career and pay are still dominated by men: taking training courses in computing and coding, working for IT companies, building websites and apps, and starting online businesses. Having more women immersed in these actions can help reduce the pay gap worldwide.

Fast-track women and mothers

Despite the gender pay gap’s undeniable existence, there are women who take full advantage of the above mentioned equalizers. In Accenture’s study, they are referred to as “fast-track women.” They comprised a fifth of the study’s sample and  reported to have reached the managerial level within five years. 41% of them studied and are honing skills in STEM. They aspire to be be promoted, have a mentor and continuously learn digital skills. 94% of them are full time workers, and 74% have flexible schedules and are allowed to telecommute.

Of course, we can’t talk about the gender pay gap and avoid the biggest elephant in the room: motherhood.  The study suggests that companies have no reason to rely less on mothers in their workforce. As the results have it, motherhood does not necessarily slow women’s career progression. Although the responsibilities of parenthood are shown to fall predominantly on women (72% of mothers have taken three or more months off work to raise a family; only 33% of fathers did so.), 82% of the so-called fast-track women are mothers. Mothers also don’t fall behind the crew when it comes to acquiring digital skills. 67% of fast-track mothers reported to take part in continuous learning and to have often been the first to try new tech devices and services.

Our role as HR leaders

As HR and people leaders, we can adopt different measures to help our companies close the gender pay gap and dodge the business risks that come with it.

Workable recommends three courses of action: analyzing your salary data, implementing blind hiring, and cultivating career path programs. Start with culling all the salary reports of your teams and comparing figures. Do male employees earn more than female employees in the same job grade? If the gap proves to exist in your organization, then start looking into your recruitment protocols. You may need to implement blind hiring techniques and obscure your applicants’ genders (in appropriate screening levels, that is). Finally, you can put up career programs that hold gender diversity in high regard. Encourage your employees to advance their careers no matter whose gender or identity dominates their field of interest.

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