Category Archive: Opinion

Gender pay gap – alive and kicking

Women are still not paid equally for equal work

gender pay gap

Last year during Women’s Month the world was focused on the Harvey Weinstein case and the #metoo campaign, which emerged in the wake of a parade of women coming forward with harrowing tales of sexual abuse and sexual harassment at the hands of Weinstein and many other celebrities. Over the course of the past year we have learned that male sexual predation is not only commonplace but normalised and even lauded in many cultures. Donald Trump dismissed his own brags about groping women as “locker room talk”, in other words just something guys do. Following these revelations a conversation developed about “toxic masculinity”, defined as “a set of behaviours and beliefs that include…suppressing emotions or masking distress; maintaining an appearance of hardness;  [and] violence as an indicator of power.” Sociologists also talk about “enhanced femininity” – Erving Goffman said that women are socialised to be “precious, ornamental and fragile,” and to display “frailty, fear and incompetence.” While women rarely pretend to be frail and incompetent these days, there is still social construction around what is considered feminine. When enhanced femininity meets toxic masculinity, the outcome is predictably unfortunate and sometimes tragic.

These issues are important – vital, even. South Africa has a culture that objectifies and derides women and results in the highest incidence of rape in the world. We must confront social norms and change them when they do not promote a fair, equitable and just society. But equally important, and somewhat buried in the emotive narrative of #metoo, is the practical aspect of gender equality: equal access to opportunities and equal pay for equal work.

South Africa has a very real gender pay gap

A report just released by management consultants PwC revealed that women in South Africa are paid less than men, not just in certain industries or occupations, but across the board. There is no industry where women are paid more than men. For example, in the major industries of technology and financial services, men are paid 22.9% and 21.8% more respectively. In health care men are paid c. 28.1% more than women, and 25.1% more in media and general retailers. 

The global picture

The World Economic Forum introduced the Global Gender Gap Index in 2006. It is a framework for measuring gender-based disparities in four areas – Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. It is published annually and tracks progress made against these important indicators. The 2018 report reveals that the Global Gender Gap score is currently 68%. This means that, on average, there is still a 32% gap to close. The most equal country is Iceland, followed by the other Nordic countries. But somewhat surprisingly, Rwanda and Namibia are in the top 10, which makes South Africa’s position all the more indefensible. 

South Africa has the nineteenth smallest gender gap out of 149 countries. However, this overall ranking belies a much poorer standing on two of the four dimensions. Our aggregated score is buoyed up by strong results in Political Empowerment and Health and Survival. When it comes to Educational Attainment we rank 72 out of 149 countries, and even worse in Economic Participation – 91 out of 149, with a score of 64.5% gender equality. Clearly we have a long way to go to attain the equal rights envisaged by the authors of our Constitution.

Public vs. private sector

It probably comes as no surprise to find that the private sector is less equal than the public sector. After all, it would be harder for government to justify defying its own equal opportunity legislation. However, it needs to do more to see that laws are upheld. Labour law expert Bridgette Mokoetle says that women are often denied opportunities with excuses such as lack of work experience. Laws and policies that exist to ensure equal pay for equal work are not adequately enforced.

Differences top and bottom of the spectrum

An interesting feature of the pay gap is that it is worse in higher-earning jobs. This is because previous disparities in low-paid jobs, where women were often discriminated against and paid much less than men in jobs of equal value (e.g. domestic worker/gardener), have been remedied by the introduction of a minimum wage. However, at the other end of the spectrum, women are under-represented in senior positions, which is reflected in the managerial pay gap statistics, according to research by UCT’s Jacqueline Mosomi. Women still occupy lower-paid jobs, i.e. administrative and less technical occupations than those in which men are more prevalent. 

Social researchers Kahn and Motsoeneng suggest that women’s under-representation in senior management is related to a shortage of women with suitable qualifications as a result of racial segregation in the past and discrimination against women in general. Black women in particular have been victims of both racism and patriarchy, so are particularly under-represented at senior level.

In the middle of the earnings distribution spectrum, the gender wage gap has moved very little since pre-democracy. Men still earn 23% to 35% more than women. The majority of occupations in this middle ground are male-dominated, such as service, craft or operational work. 

What’s the solution to the gender pay gap?

The onus to close our gender pay gap – and to rectify other gender inequalities in our country – lies with our legislators. Policies and laws exist to ensure equality, but their enforcement is piecemeal and indifferent. B-BBEE legislation has been tightened and employment equity in terms of race is improving, as a result of a concerted commitment to transformation. Black women are of course included in overall B-BBEE indicators, but the focus is on race, not gender. B-BBEE compliance does not in itself address the gender pay gap. 

Business owners also have a responsibility to review pay scales and distribution of women in key roles, including those all-important median occupations mentioned above, and to investigate their recruitment practices and ensure equal opportunities exist in practice, not just on paper.

Parents and educators need to encourage girls and young women to consider careers in STEM and tech-related fields, and to stop categorising occupations as “male” or “female”. 

Kahn and Motsoegeng recommend that the priorities for closing the gender pay gap are: fighting discrimination, supporting training and development, and providing women with better access to career development.

And finally, we all, whatever role we play in the workforce and in society, need to examine our own mindsets and ensure we live the values of our Constitution. We need to be non-racial, gender-neutral and inclusive in our values and our conduct. This is the only way we will transform our society and close all the gender gaps, not just the pay gap.

If you are the victim of gender pay discrimination

Unfortunately, much pay inequity is not illegal. However, genuine discrimination, which our legislation prohibits, does still exist. If you think you have been the victim of gender, race or any type of pay discrimination at work, contact Cape Town attorneys. We will investigate your case and support you at the CCMA or help you bring a private matter before your employer.

Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence. SD Law and Associates are experienced Cape Town lawyers who are committed to Constitutional justice and human rights for all South Africans.

Read More

Klein Akker Evictions – update

300 people made homeless in “legal” eviction

Activists and concerned citizens are outraged at the treatment of residents on Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein. In an act of eviction that is legal but nonetheless inhumane, 300 poor and vulnerable occupants have seen their homes demolished before their very eyes and left by the side of the road, without blankets, clothing or children’s school books. Possessions have either been destroyed or put in storage, where residents can’t access them.

Klein Akker Farm Eviction - It was legal, but was it moral?

Eviction order

Many residents had lived on the Klein Akker farm for 20 years or more. They were part of a community and they looked after each other. Some had come initially as fruit pickers. When the farm was sold in 2012 and the current owner ceased growing fruit, workers found employment on nearby farms but continued to occupy their dwellings. The owner applied for and was granted an eviction order in October 2017. Residents successfully applied for a stay of the eviction until 1 July 2019.

In accordance with legislation, the City of Cape Town offered alternative accommodation. But the options provided were unacceptable to residents, for reasons of distance and unaffordability of transport to work, and safety. One location was Philippi, which is known for gang violence. Furthermore the land offered at Philippi was sodden and completely unsuitable for housing.

The eviction was completely legal, but was it moral?

Disregard for human rights

On Monday (19 August) law enforcement officials and security guards arrived at Klein Akker and began demolishing shacks with machinery. Clothes and possessions were seized. Children’s school uniforms were taken and put into storage, along with cooking pots and food. Residents were left by the side of the road with nothing to eat and no way to keep warm. The City of Cape Town has defended its position because it twice offered the residents alternative accommodation.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) argues that the eviction represents multiple human rights violations, including the right to adequate housing, the right to water and sanitation, the rights of children, the right to a basic education and the right to human dignity. The SAHRC applied to the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday (21 August) to challenge the eviction, and supported the counter application by the Legal Resources Centre for emergency accommodation and constitutional damages for the victims of the Klein Akker eviction.

UPDATE:

On Monday (26 August), the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mcebisi Skwatsha, committed his department to housing the families who were evicted from the Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein last week. They are to be temporarily accommodated on a state farm near Stellenbosch. He was shocked by the conditions in which the 93 households were living, following a visit to the site on Monday morning. He said, “As leaders, we cannot just fold our hands while people living on the streets. We have a responsibility to take care of the people, especially at these difficult times like this one.” Source

Last week, following the evictions, the High Court ruled that the City of Cape Town must “make available within 24 hours of this order, temporary emergency shelter in the form of land and emergency housing kits at the emergency housing site known as Kampies, Philippi”. Source

However, the Philippi site had already been rejected by residents as unsuitable for habitation. The intervention from the Deputy Minister is likely to be far more welcome.

Championing fair evictions

At SD Law, we believe property owners have the right to enjoy their property. We also believe that tenants should be treated fairly and justly. We act for both landlords and tenants and have a deep understanding of the relevant legislation. But our insight goes further than that. We are Cape Town attorneys with high emotional intelligence. We seek legal solutions that incorporate moral and ethical conduct and respect human rights. If you have an eviction matter, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence. We’ll never leave you stranded.

Read More

Wounding Words

Law firm Cape Town

by Simon David Dippenaar

As children, we were raised hearing the old adage that ‘sticks and stones may break one’s bones, but words can never harm one.’

However, one soon comes to the stark realisation that this is not actually true. This is particularly so, for example, when one considers all those that have committed suicide as a result of words.

Words are powerful. They can bring down governments, they can start wars, and they can destroy lives. The reality is that words can hurt more than broken bones in many cases. Some people actually bear the physical marks on their body from someone else’s words.

Too often we use words without considering their impact.

What we need is a society that is cognisant of the impact of words and a desire to temper them so that they are a force for good, and not for destruction.

This post was prompted by a very recent client who was repeatedly called a “moffie” and even beaten up by his neighbour because he is gay. “Moffie” is a word that has often been used to degrade gay men and is riddled with negative connotations.

More often than not, individuals choose to ignore the discrimination, but it can sometimes cause so much pain and make it impossible for some to break out of the psychological torture. This is one of those pillars of prejudice that has to be toppled in the creation of a non-sexist society.

The South African Constitution protects everyone in the country, irrespective of whether they are citizens or not, and all have the right to dignity and equality. The Constitution specifically provides that the right to freedom of expression does not extend to “advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm”.

It is important to note, however, that ‘hate speech’ does not refer to words that are merely hurtful, insulting or upsetting. For words to amount to hate speech, they must be regarded as advocating hatred and must constitute an incitement to cause harm to that person or group of persons.

Social ambiguity about men being abused is a factor in their not speaking up; they also run the risk of not being believed. In situations where individuals have experienced discrimination, there are various legal avenues that can be pursued.

Cape Town Lawyers at SD Law South Africa, we understand the pain caused by words that are intended to hurt and destroy. You need not suffer in silence. We can help so that you can walk tall and hold your head up high. We can ensure that your rights are protected, whether through alternative dispute resolution, litigation or other avenues.

Get in touch with me if you have a matter you would like to discuss.

Read More