Wages of In­equal­ity

THE PAY GAP BE­TWEEN FE­MALE AND MALE EM­PLOY­EES NOT ONLY EX­ISTS BUT ALSO IN­CREASES AS THEY AD­VANCE IN THEIR CA­REERS. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO RE­VERSE THE TREND?

Business Today - - CONTENTS - BY SONAL KHETARPAL IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY RAJ VERMA

THE PAY GAP BE­TWEEN FE­MALE AND MALE EM­PLOY­EES NOT ONLY EX­ISTS BUT ALSO IN­CREASES AS THEY AD­VANCE IN THEIR CA­REERS. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO RE­VERSE THE TREND?

Radha (name changed), 39, is a Se­nior Part­ner at an in­vest­ment bank­ing firm where she has been work­ing for seven years. She was ris­ing swiftly, man­ag­ing im­por­tant clients, crack­ing multi-mil­lion dol­lar deals. Since last year, when she be­came a mother of twins, she is not sure where her ca­reer is headed. She has been al­lowed flexi-time – part of com­pany pol­icy – en­abling her to work from home, when­ever needed, but she is no longer given dif­fi­cult as­sign­ments. She fears she will have lit­tle to show when her ap­praisal comes up. “I have worked hard for so many years. I don’t want to give it all up,” she says. “But my com­pany seems to have al­ready de­cided that I will not be able to per­form as be­fore.”

This is noth­ing new. Man­agers of­ten as­sume that a new mother will not be able to give pri­or­ity to work and think they are do­ing her a favour by light­en­ing her work­load, whereas they are only re­in­forc­ing a gen­der stereo­type. For new moth­ers, the bias is a lot more deep seated. Man­agers of­ten as­sume they will not be able to give pri­or­ity to work and think they are do­ing her a favour by light­en­ing her work­load.

“It is more of a so­cial is­sue than an or­gan­i­sa­tional one,” says Har­jeet Khan­duja, a vet­eran in hu­man re­source (HR) man­age­ment. In some com­pa­nies, even the six months of ma­ter­nity leave turns into a hur­dle for the wo­man as her clients are as­signed to male coun­ter­parts in her ab­sence, and of­ten re­main with them af­ter she re­turns to work, forc­ing her to start from scratch. “Many com­pa­nies don’t even think about giv­ing a new mother work match­ing her po­ten­tial when she re­joins,” says Sarika Bhat­tacharyya, CEO at di­ver­sity con­sul­tancy BD Foun­da­tion.

The corol­lary is that the new mother’s in­cre­ment is likely to be lower than her male col­leagues’. The women ques­tion this. The men of­ten say their con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing that pe­riod was more and, hence, they de­serve more. Man­agers want least fric­tion. “So, they go with the masses,” says Khan­duja. “Think of it as an­other kind of vote-bank pol­i­tics. This is how the gen­der pay gap builds up.”

Dis­crim­i­na­tion ex­ists not just for the new mother, but is preva­lent across at all lev­els in any or­gan­i­sa­tion, from high-end in­vest­ment banks down to fam­ily busi­nesses.

An­jali Bansal, for­mer global part­ner and MD with TPG Pri­vate Eq­uity, says such dis­crim­i­na­tion is quite com­mon in tra­di­tional fam­ily busi­nesses where the pa­tri­arch en­sures that male col­leagues get a higher share of bonus.

The gen­der pay gap is not an In­di­aspe­cific is­sue and cer­tainly not a re­cent one. Way back in 1975, 90 per cent of women in Ice­land took to streets over this. In 2016, they or­gan­ised an­other protest by leav­ing their of­fice at 2:38 pm, work­ing 30 per cent less that day, as this was the gap be­tween the av­er­age in­come of men and women in Ice­land. This year, 170 women em­ploy­ees of BBC ac­cused the broad­caster of pay­ing them less than the men. Their for­mer China Ed­i­tor, Car­rie Gra­cie, re­signed and won the pay bat­tle

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