The Top 5 Na­tions…


when she got £2,80,000 in back pay and a pub­lic apol­ogy from BBC. Though they have not made much news, there are some cases in In­dia. Bimla Rani. a packer who sought equal pay with her male coun­ter­parts lost her case since it was found that the na­ture of work she did was dif­fer­ent. In­dia-born Lon­don-based techie Shreya Ukil had also sued Wipro in Lon­don.

Law Makes No Dif­fer­ence

In­dia passed the Equal Re­mu­ner­a­tion Act way back in 1976, which pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion in re­mu­ner­a­tion on grounds of sex. But in prac­tice, a re­cent In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO) global sur­vey found In­dia’s gen­der pay gap for for­mal work­ers in ur­ban ar­eas at 23 per cent. It ranked In­dia 28th out of 30 coun­tries. Sim­i­larly, the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s, or WEF’s, Global Gen­der Gap In­dex, which sur­veyed 144 coun­tries, ranked In­dia at 108, far be­low the global av­er­age and be­hind neigh­bours Bangladesh and China. “The gen­der wage gap is a re­sult of many fac­tors such as at­ti­tudes to­wards women, oc­cu­pa­tional seg­re­ga­tion, moth­er­hood, ed­u­ca­tion lev­els, care bur­den, ac­cess to trans­port, among oth­ers,” says Xavier Es­tupiñan, ILO Wage Spe­cial­ist.

Worse, data shows that for older women with more work ex­pe­ri­ence, the gap is higher. Global em­ploy­ment ma­jor Mon­ster’s Salary In­dex 2017 for In­dia re­vealed that for em­ploy­ees with ex­pe­ri­ence of less than two years, the me­dian gap in wages be­tween men and women was 7.8 per cent, but rose to 15.3 per cent among those with six to 10 years ex­pe­ri­ence, and 25 per cent for those with 11 or more years of em­ploy­ment. The ILO study, us­ing the Na­tional Sam­ple Sur­vey Or­gan­i­sa­tion data, reaches the same con­clu­sion – the wage gap gets wider as men and women age.

Proxy ad­vi­sory firm In­sti­tu­tional In­vestor Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices (IiAS) has used data from the S&P Bom­bay Stock Ex­change 500 In­dex to show that women earn less than men even at the CEO level. The me­dian an­nual salary for male CEOs at these com­pa­nies was ` 4.4 crore,

while for women it was ` 3.9 crore. In fact, there is no wo­man among the top 20 high­est paid CEOs. The high­est earn­ing male CEO gets ` 83.2 crore while his fe­male coun­ter­part earns ` 19.8 crore (at No. 25). No doubt, an im­por­tant rea­son for this is the sheer paucity of women at the top – of the 500 CEOs in the in­dex, only 24 are women, while among board mem­bers, men out­num­ber women 11:1. In pri­vate sec­tor banks, women CEOs ac­count for just 14 per cent of the to­tal, in health­care com­pa­nies 9 per cent, and in fast mov­ing con­sumer goods, 4 per cent. “I’m the only wo­man CEO in In­dian in­surance – and that’s across some 50 com­pa­nies en­com­pass­ing life in­surance, non-life in­surance, health in­surance and rein­sur­ance,” says R.M. Vishakha, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and CEO, In­di­aFirst Life In­surance. “En­sur­ing equal­ity of pay is crit­i­cal to en­cour­age more women to con­tinue on their ca­reer path to reach lead­er­ship po­si­tions.”

Man­i­fold Rea­sons

Dis­crim­i­na­tion in salary hap­pens not just at top man­age­ment but starts right at the re­cruit­ment stage. “Ul­ti­mately com­pen­sa­tion is fi­nalised on the ba­sis of how much the can­di­date is able to ne­go­ti­ate,” says Khan­duja. Ev­ery re­cruiter’s aim is to lower costs. Many women are poor ne­go­tia­tors, while some have pri­or­i­ties other than the salary. Khan­duja shares an in­stance. While in­ter­view­ing MBA stu­dents, a girl broke down af­ter she was asked one sim­ple ques­tion —why do you want to do an MBA af­ter elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing? She said, “If I don’t get into an MBA pro­gramme, my fa­ther will get me mar­ried.” Hence, some are des­per­ate for work, and less mind­ful of the salary of­fered. Oth­ers have con­sid­er­a­tions such as the dis­tance of the place of work from their homes, work­ing hours — since they have do­mes­tic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as well – and whether the work in­volves travel or not. All this af­fects the salaries they get. Men are rarely sim­i­larly con­strained and their salaries re­flect it. “Higher com­pen­sa­tion is not the main cri­te­ria for women as it is for men,” Khan­duja adds. “Women will ne­go­ti­ate, but not hag­gle.”

These con­sid­er­a­tions also in­flu­ence the kind of jobs women take up. “Stud­ies have shown that wage dis­par­ity is also due to choice of job roles which, in turn, evolve from gen­der stereo­types,” says Ne­harika Vohra, Pro­fes­sor, Fac­ulty of Or­gan­i­sa­tional Be­hav­iour, IIM Ahmed­abad. Re­searchers call this gen­der seg­re­ga­tion. For a large part of the 20th cen­tury, mid­dle-class women – if they worked at all – were mostly schoolteachers, doc­tors and sec­re­tar­ial staff, which re­in­forced their so­cial role as nur­tur­ers and care­tak­ers. It was only from the mid-1970s that they be­gan en­ter­ing other pro­fes­sions in large num­bers, but even so the hang­over of the past re­mains. “Safety, work-life bal­ance, desk job be­come per­va­sive themes in the ca­reer choices women make or are asked to make,” she says. “Women were never meant to be pri­mary bread­win­ners and so a high growth ca­reer is never on their agenda.”

But the fact that the jobs women tra­di­tion­ally plump for also pay less shows that the so­ci­ety val­ues their work less. A Cor­nell Univer­sity study found that the dif­fer­ence be­tween oc­cu­pa­tions and in­dus­tries in which men and women work is the sin­gle largest rea­son for the gen­der pay gap. An­other US study shows that salary lev­els de­cline in fields where women en­ter in large num­bers. While there have been no cor­re­spond­ing stud­ies in In­dia, it is well known that from the low­est to the high­est lev­els,

“The gen­der wage gap is a re­sult of many fac­tors such as at­ti­tudes to­wards women, oc­cu­pa­tional seg­re­ga­tion, moth­er­hood, ed­u­ca­tion lev­els, care bur­den, ac­cess to trans­port.” XAVIER ES­TUPIÑAN ILO WAGE SPE­CIAL­IST ` 3.9cr The me­dian salary of wo­man CEOs in BSE 500 com­pa­nies against ` 4.4 crore for male CEOs

work pre­dom­i­nantly done by women pays less. Cooks and maids are paid less than driv­ers. An HR head’s job will be val­ued less than that of a sales head. Top male ac­tors are paid much more than top fe­male ones.

Nox­ious Work Cul­ture Work­place cul­ture also of­ten doesn’t give women the right op­por­tu­nity to grow and thrive. For in­stance, one is­sue is stay­ing late in of­fice or net­work­ing out­side of­fice hours. “I’m paid at least 30 per cent less than my male coun­ter­parts be­cause I stick to in­sti­tu­tional ways of making sales in­stead of win­ing and din­ing clients,” says a wo­man di­rec­tor with a power firm. “Many com­pa­nies make din­ner net­work­ing manda­tory, and since I choose not to join them, I’ve not been able to move to new jobs as of­ten as I would have liked, and am there­fore earn­ing less than I should.”

Also, if women leave of­fice on time, it is seen un­favourably. A CEO of a dig­i­tal me­dia agency says she has learnt from of­fice grapevine that she is re­ferred to as the “part-time CEO” be­cause she leaves of­fice early when­ever pos­si­ble. “Work from home, flexi-time isn't a favour any­more. It is about giv­ing em­ployee the space to fin­ish work as and when he or she wants.”

A se­nior re­porter in me­dia shares how she had to work from dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions due to her hus­band’s trans­fer ev­ery 10 months. She wasn’t given a pro­mo­tion for those two years. “It wasn’t that I was work­ing any less. But the com­pany felt it was do­ing me a favour.” Even oth­er­wise, stud­ies show that women change jobs less fre­quently than men. “It is a vi­cious cy­cle: women start with less, get low in­cre­ments and it gets worse over time,” says Khan­duja.

And it’s worse for mar­ried women. WageIndi­ca­tor and Pay­check In­dia noted in a study for years 2006 to 2013 that while the gen­der pay gap for sin­gle women was 26.5 per cent, for mar­ried and di­vorced women, it was over 35 per cent across ages. It springs from the in­her­ent per­cep­tion that women with fam­i­lies can­not fo­cus pri­mar­ily on their work. “An HR ex­ec­u­tive frankly told me that if he had a choice be­tween a mar­ried wo­man and a man, both equally qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced, he would pro­mote the lat­ter, as mar­ried women are likely to take more leave,” says a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at a con­sult­ing firm who didn’t want to be named. As for women with young chil­dren whose hus­bands are away, even a job can be elu­sive. “Dur­ing fi­nal in­ter­view rounds, as soon as prospec­tive em­ploy­ers learnt I was liv­ing alone with an eight- mon­thold daugh­ter, their at­ti­tude to­wards me changed,” says Ro­hini Prajapati, a for­mer HR pro­fes­sional. She just could not con­vince them that she had a strong enough sup­port sys­tem at home to take up a job, and af­ter be­ing turned down 12 times, turned to con­tent writ­ing and blog­ging.

No em­ployer will ever openly ad­mit to pay­ing women less than men. “It’s never said aloud but bias creeps in when can­di­dates are be­ing as­sessed for em­ploy­ment or pro­mo­tion,” says Bhat­tacharyya of BD Foun­da­tion. “Many ex­cuses are of­fered to ex­plain the pay gap, es­pe­cially the claim that women be­ing paid less agreed to the salaries they are draw­ing.” But the fact re­mains that the male-fe­male ra­tio is far bet­ter at the en­try level and gets skewed to­wards mid­dle age as more women drop out of work, show­ing the prob­lems in the ecosys­tem that don’t let women stay even if they want to.

In 2017, a Face­book em­ployee anony­mously re­leased data show­ing that, over a five-year time span, the re­jec­tion rate of code writ­ten by fe­male en­gi­neers was 35 per cent higher than that of code writ­ten by males. The for­mer also elicited 8.2 per cent more com­ments and ques­tions – show­ing that women are of­ten held up to higher stan­dards than men

at work. If they fall short, it shows in their in­cre­ments. Some, how­ever, feel that the women them­selves are also partly to blame. “Many women hold them­selves to higher stan­dards and in the process un­der­es­ti­mate their work,” says Ri­tu­parna Chakraborty, co-founder of staffing firm Team­Lease. “They con­sider their work un­equal or un­wor­thy. Un­less they stop do­ing so, they have lost the bat­tle at the start.” Un­like men, who are more ag­gres­sive in ask­ing for big­ger roles, women take the con­ser­va­tive route. They are more cau­tious when tak­ing new as­sign­ments be­cause they like to do ev­ery­thing too well and worry if they can man­age the ex­tra work, says Ameera Shah, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Me­trop­o­lis Health­care; this then plays out in their in­cre­ment.

The lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of the econ­omy since 1991 has had many salu­tary ef­fects but it may not have been the best thing for pay par­ity. In the pub­lic sec­tor, rules re­gard­ing com­pen­sa­tion and pro­mo­tions are clearly de­fined, with gen­der dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion strictly pro­hib­ited, and in the years when it of­fered the ma­jor­ity of jobs, women ben­e­fit­ted.

“The in­cre­ments may have been small, the pro­mo­tions few, but there was com­plete pay par­ity,” says Vishakha of In­di­aFirst Life In­surance. With ex­pan­sion of the pri­vate sec­tor came con­cepts like link­ing of pay to per­for­mance and even po­ten­tial – as­sess­ment of which can be highly sub­jec­tive, lead­ing to an in­crease in the gen­der wage gap. In the last five years, for in­stance, over­all com­pen­sa­tion of male ex­ec­u­tives – in­clud­ing CEOs and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tors – has in­creased 70 per cent, while that of fe­male ones has grown only 48 per cent.

Fix­ing the Prob­lem Reme­dies are not dif­fi­cult. “Pay par­ity is eas­ier to achieve than gen­der sen­si­ti­sa­tion or chang­ing the cul­ture of the work­place,” says Pallavi Jha, Chair­per­son and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of lead­er­ship train­ing com­pany Dale Carnegie Train­ing In­dia. There could be laws, for in­stance, man­dat­ing that ev­ery com­pany, pub­lic or pri­vate, em­ploy­ing more than a cer­tain num­ber, pub­lish the av­er­age salary it pays men and women for dif­fer­ent jobs. The UK man­dates this for com­pa­nies with more than 250 em­ploy­ees, and it has led to con­sid­er­able cor­rec­tive ac­tion.

Again, Ger­many, ear­lier this year, passed a law by which em­ploy­ees can ac­cess in­for­ma­tion about their peers’ in­come if they feel dis­ad­van­taged – this ex­am­ple too is worth em­u­lat­ing. Ice­land, which fig­ures at the top of the WEF’s rank­ing of coun­tries on gen­der equal­ity, im­poses fines on com­pa­nies with more than 25 em­ploy­ees which are found to have de­vi­ated from a strict equal pay pol­icy.

While leg­is­la­tion is awaited, com­pa­nies could also start bench­mark­ing salaries for dif­fer­ent roles and stick­ing to them. “It is not fair for com­pen­sa­tion to be de­ter­mined by an in­di­vid­ual’s ne­go­ti­at­ing skills,” says Nir­mala Menon, Founder and CEO of HR con­sult­ing firm In­ter­weave Con­sult­ing.

Some com­pa­nies are do­ing so – for in-

Stud­ies have shown that wage dis­par­ity is also due to choice of job roles which, in turn, evolve from gen­der stereo­types” NE­HARIKA VOHRA PRO­FES­SOR, FAC­ULTY OF OR­GAN­I­SA­TIONAL BE­HAV­IOUR, IIMAHMEDABAD

stance, Adobe In­dia an­nounced in Jan­uary this year that it has achieved gen­der pay par­ity across the com­pany. It started re­view­ing in­ter­nal job struc­tures as well as com­pen­sa­tion prac­tices, making nec­es­sary ad­just­ments to break ex­ist­ing bi­ases against women. To en­sure pay par­ity in the long run, the com­pany dis­con­tin­ued the wide­spread prac­tice of us­ing a job ap­pli­cant’s prior re­mu­ner­a­tion as a bench­mark to de­ter­mine the salary it will of­fer. “This will help us over­come the gen­der wage gap women may have ex­pe­ri­enced in pre­vi­ous jobs,” says Jaleel Ab­dul, Vice Pres­i­dent, Em­ployee Ex­pe­ri­ence, Adobe In­dia. To ad­dress the un­con­scious bi­ases, the com­pany has started ac­tively driv­ing train­ings and fine-tuned in­ter­nal pro­cesses, in­clud­ing the use of gen­der-neu­tral lan­guage in job de­scrip­tions.

In the strug­gle for pay par­ity, how­ever, what is also im­por­tant is to have a large enough crit­i­cal mass of women em­ploy­ees at ev­ery level so that their voice is heard loud enough. This will hap­pen when there are so­lu­tions to ad­dress the is­sue of car­ing for the el­derly and the chil­dren. “Many women can­not par­tic­i­pate in the labour mar­ket be­cause of this. The way forward to en­sure gen­der equal­ity in the world of work is to recog­nise and value women’s work as well as dis­trib­ute the care work,” says Aya Mat­suura, ILO Gen­der Spe­cial­ist. Ac­cord­ing to an ILO re­port, un­paid care work is one of the main ob­sta­cles to women mov­ing into bet­ter qual­ity jobs. It af­fects the num­ber of hours spent by women at work, im­pact­ing their earn­ings.

Un­less the is­sue of dis­tri­bu­tion of work at home is ad­dressed, there will never be enough women at work. In­clu­sion stud­ies have shown that the tip­ping point for any form of di­ver­sity to flour­ish is hav­ing about 30 per cent representation. This can be done by abol­ish­ing gen­der re­stric­tions. “To bring more women into the work­force, it is im­por­tant to do away with poli­cies that per­pet­u­ate gen­der stereo­types,” says Chakraborty of Team­Lease. “Child care leave, for in­stance, should be al­lowed for both men and women. Pro­vid­ing it only to women sug­gests only moth­ers are re­spon­si­ble for child care.” Any fac­to­ryre­lated laws that pre­vent women from work­ing at cer­tain hours or in cer­tain roles should go. The armed forces too have rules re­strict­ing women tak­ing up com­bat roles – but these are lately be­ing re­con­sid­ered.

Above all, what is im­por­tant is equal op­por­tu­nity. HUL is tak­ing con­scious ef­forts to stem the drop off of women af­ter ma­ter­nity. The com­pany claims it was able to re­tain 97 per cent of women who went on a ma­ter­nity break in 2017. If of­fers on-site day care fa­cil­i­ties, flex­i­ble work­ing, job shares/splits and re­mote work­ing ar­range­ments. Then there is a ca­reer break pol­icy, for both gen­ders, where em­ploy­ees can take a sab­bat­i­cal of six months to five years. An­other is Ca­reer by Choice which helps women tran­si­tion to full- time work post a break. “The representation of women has gone up dra­mat­i­cally,” says B.P. Bid­dappa, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, HR at Hin­dus­tan Unilever.

At le­gal firm Sam­vad Part­ners, nine out of 14 part­ners are women, as also 70 per cent of its 80-odd lawyers, but this was not the re­sult of any spe­cial ef­fort. “We never had a fe­male-friendly re­cruit­ment pol­icy and never will,” says Har­ish Naras­appa, Found­ing Part­ner, Sam­vad. “We treated women ap­pli­cants no dif­fer­ently from men, judg­ing them solely on the ba­sis of qual­i­fi­ca­tions and skills.” So, too, was the case at ICICI Bank in the mid to late 80s when the bank re­cruited a range of tal­ented women who went on to be­come top bankers. “The in­sti­tu­tion did not talk of di­ver­sity but of equal op­por­tu­nity for all,” says K. Su­dar­shan, Man­ag­ing Part­ner at ex­ec­u­tive search firm EMA Part­ners. “Di­ver­sity is not an overnight ex­er­cise. It arises from 20 years of con­sis­tent ef­fort.”

(With in­puts from Ajita Shashid­har)


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