Category Archive: Women’s Day

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

Women’s Day 2018 – why is it still necessary?

Women's day 2018

Why are women still fighting for basic human rights? Women’s Day 2018

Every year in South Africa we observe Women’s Day on 9th August, to commemorate the women who raised their voices against racial injustice during the Struggle, marching in 1956 on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest at the oppressive pass laws.

National Women’s Day 2018 is intended to celebrate the progress of women in all walks of life in South Africa. Back in 1994, at the dawn of democracy, women constituted less than three per cent of the South African parliament. Today over 40 per cent of parliamentary representatives are women. We tend to observe all of August as Women’s Month, setting time aside each year to mark South African women and their accomplishments.

At SD Law we are proud of the achievements of South African women in so many walks of life, but Women’s Day 2018 also inspires us to reflect on the many inequities that still exist in our country. Why are we not yet where we should be, in terms of equality, fairness and justice? Many women still live in fear of violence from intimate partners, or suffer lower wages than male counterparts (despite legislation to prevent this), or lack agency to conduct their lives meaningfully as they choose. We are left pondering what more we – women and men – need to do to bring about lasting change and to create a society that is fairer for all.

Several things have happened recently that have given us pause for thought.

 

#TheTotalShutdown

On 1 August, marches took place across South Africa calling for an end to gender-based violence (GBV). Petitions were handed over to government officials, demanding stronger government action against GBV, and marches brought major cities like Tshwane to a halt. Men were asked not to attend the march, and to support their women friends, family members and colleagues by staying away from work that day, or at the very least refraining from any economic activity for the half hour between 13.00 and 13:30.

Gender-nonconformists and members of the LGTBQI community took part, but cis men were not invited, because men are the (most common) perpetrators of violence against women. On the one hand, we understand the sense of sisterhood that the march organisers wanted to invoke. On the other hand, a) not all men violate women and b) men need to be part of the fight to end violence against women. Men who abhor violence must be vocal and must take action. They must call their fellow men out not just on violent conduct but on misogynistic mentalities and behaviours that foster a culture that allows GBV to happen. The exclusion of men from an event like #TheTotalShutdown somehow contradicts the ultimate objective of the marches – to create a society where men and women live together in mutual respect and without fear.

 

The Allbright Club

Recently a women’s business networking club in London, called the AllBright Club (after US Senator Madeleine Albright, famously credited with saying, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”), hit the headlines because it appointed a man as Chairperson. The founders, Debbie Wosskow and Anna Jones, have been widely criticised, but have defended the appointment because “…the group is operating amid the uncomfortable realities of scarce finance, where men still control the majority of start-up capital, so men have to be brought on board…”

This is a tricky one. Surely the symbolism of having a male Chair of a women’s networking organisation is counterintuitive, if not counterproductive. On the other hand, Wosskow and Jones live in the real world, and if the club is to succeed, to advance women in business, it needs finance. Is it ironic that their cause will find more favour if a man pleads their case to investors? Yes. Is it wrong? Absolutely. But to challenge that iniquity (and that inequity) they have to work within the system to change it.

We know not everyone will agree with us. But organisations like the AllBright Club want to see a world where men and women have equal access to capital, equal opportunities to succeed in business, and an equal share of resources and assets. They are not trying to create a parallel, women-only universe. So men need to be part of the vision and part of the machinery that achieves that vision. Enlightened men should have no problem with this concept.

 

Mothers vs. lovers

Finally, we were saddened and frustrated by recent news from a friend: her husband left her because she was “spending too much time running after their son”. Their son. Said son is eight years old – a child. And his father is jealous of the time his mother spends with him. It’s hard to know how to respond to such an antediluvian sentiment. A woman, with a busy professional job, contributing equally to the household finances, raising a child in a supposedly modern relationship where parental responsibilities are shared, has been criticised and abandoned because she is too much of a mother and not enough of a lover. No doubt if her time were allocated differently, there would be plenty of criticism of her for not being a good enough mother.

 

The problem is patriarchy

The problem is not one of whether men march in protest at GBV with women or not, or whether it is right or wrong to appoint a man to the Chair of a women’s business club. The issue is one of patriarchy: a social structure that insists a woman be perfect mother, dedicated homemaker, financial partner and available lover all at once; a social structure that dictates that the women’s club will stand a better chance of raising finance with a man at the helm; a social structure that allows women to be so denigrated and violated that they are forced to rise up in protest, and prefer to do so without the presence of the very men who abuse them.

Patriarchy is the construct that must be challenged. And it can only be changed with the input and influence of all members of society, not just half of it. If men are the problem, they must be part of the solution.

Did you enjoy our Women’s Day 2018 post? You may enjoy this too – Women in the workplace

Read More

Women in the workplace: How equal is equal?

 

Women & Women's Day

Women – It’s hard to believe, but it has been 60 years since that famous march on the Union Buildings by women protesting against unjust pass laws. So much has changed for the better in our society since then. We have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, enshrining equal rights and justice for all in law, regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, etc.

Read More