“Women often have to put in double the effort and invest twice as much time, yet in many cases, they don’t receive the same recognition as their male counterparts.”
– Njideka Akabogu (Regional Manager and Lead PR and Communications Adviser ID Africa)
International Equal Pay Day is a global observance dedicated to addressing and raising awareness about the substantial disparities between men’s and women’s wages worldwide. While the gender pay gap has improved over the past few years, statistics show that the gender gap across the world is back to 2019 levels, but with the same projected year of parity as last year.
According to the World Bank, about 2.4 billion women do not have equal economic rights as men. In Nigeria, pay gap is perceived as a myth. Most people believe that if a person earns more than another, it is deserved and not gender-based. However, the Global Gender Gap report strongly suggests that the pay gap exists in Nigeria, currently ranking as the 123rd country on the list of 146 countries.
The spoken-unspoken rule that inhibits employees from discussing wages makes the gravity of this disparity grossly under-reported. This begs the question: in whose favour is this rule?
A digital media expert, who remains anonymous, recounts her experience in a previous workplace where she and her co-workers had to be quiet about their income. She says “…people were encouraged to be hush-hush about what they earned because even two people in the same role and the same department could be earning two separate salaries…”.
While working in the business development department at that organisation, she experienced a pay disparity. Their CEO also wrongly stated that they would never find better-paying jobs. This manipulation tactic is not uncommon and further lends credence to why many women are terrified of speaking up.
The realities of pay disparity in various organisations are more extensive. Women are often offered and paid less because they consider men “breadwinners” and, therefore, need more money than their female counterparts. This flawed dogma contributes to the 40% pay gap we are currently witnessing in the country.
While speaking to MCN for #MCWorkLife, Njideka Akabogu shared her thoughts on the pay gap in the Nigerian corporate sector. She says “… men apply for the same roles as women, and when it comes to salary negotiations, the men secure higher paychecks. Some women excel in their work, while some men… get more recognition and compensation.”
Most recently, we saw a blatant disregard for women in the music industry by the Headies Award. It acknowledged Ayra Starr and other female artists on Twitter instead of the award stage. If an internationally recognized body can publicly disregard the women who rightfully worked as hard as the men in the same year and category, what more can be said about corporate organisations that can keep their culpability private?
Many times, the causes of the pay gap that exist dig deep beneath the surface. So many factors serve as the catalyst for the global disparity we are currently battling. Some of these include.
They teach young, impressionable girls what is appropriate for women to become in contrast to men. This enforced ideology has streamlined women to pick careers that pay significantly less than “masculine” jobs and offer higher wages.
Sometimes, women face wage gaps when they begin the journey to motherhood. According to research by the World Economic Forum on how childcare and paternity leave can reduce the gender pay gap, the motherhood penalty makes up 80% of the gender pay gap. Some organizations claim that maternity leave or limited work hours to care for children significantly impacts work output. This is despite the fact that women still complete their tasks and duties in these roles.
For fear of backlash and being perceived as difficult, many women do not initiate salary negotiations. However, men are perceived to be assertive when they do with a higher success rate as well. This personal bias fuels the pay gap in ways beyond our imagination.
Our beauty editor, Wumi Tuase, had her fair share of this earlier in her career in the automobile industry. Despite the evidence of her work, which included a national award, the fear of being out of a job while running for her master’s degree held her back from demanding a salary raise.
“I was told I didn’t have as many responsibilities as the men and should be grateful for the raise I already got. I was a manager for 4 years in the company and was getting paid the same amount as a junior staff member who had just been employed because he’s a man with a pregnant girlfriend.”
Cultural and societal norms
Traditional gender roles and societal expectations continue to influence career choices and decisions. 50% of Nigerian women are employed in 7 occupations only. Why? They regard these occupations as flexible and allow women who are primary caregivers at home to balance family and work. Conversely, men are fine seeking employment in fields that require their total commitment because they have no lingering liabilities on the home front.
In the same breath, women are disregarded as priority earners because they end up married, bear and raise children, and eventually quit their jobs to fully settle into their role as primary caregivers.
A bias evident in 2019 when Super Falcons captain Desire Oparanozie demanded the Nigeria’s women’s team be paid the same as their male counterparts at the Ladies In Sports (LIS) Conference in Lagos.
“We are the most successful female team in Africa, yet we have the largest disparities between men’s and women’s pay.”
Why do women deserve equal pay for equal labour?
“I really didn’t need to ask for a raise. I had worked for it by taking up several managerial roles while filling in for someone who never got replaced and winning that contest, but they never mentioned it. The one time I finally got the courage to, I was told it was being worked on, so I kept quiet.”
After putting in excellent efforts to ensure the success of her previous organisation, Wumi discovered that they rewarded her less than her counterparts for the simple reason of being a woman. It was extremely disheartening and grossly unfair. Unfortunately, this is the reality of many women across the world.
Nobody deserves to be discriminated against because they belong to a specific demographic that society considers less deserving. Equal pay is based on evidence of work done and is a requirement that cuts across all industries. This benefits the organisation and society because when everyone gets merit-based rewards, the output is a product of efficiency.
The gender pay gap has long-term effects on a woman throughout her life. Besides a limitation in spending power, women can earn less retirement pay than men despite working the same number of years and in the same capacity. While going through major life changes such as childbirth, returning harder is the only goal, yet the reward for work done could be better.
“The situation is even worse for women of colour compared to white, non-Hispanic men. Over a 40-year career, Black women typically lose $941,600 in retirement fees.”– American Federation of Government Employees.
What is the way out?
“While companies assessed scored better than the global average on women’s participation as leaders on boards and compared favourably with global averages on women in senior management, work needs to be done to achieve gender balance — between 40 and 60 percent of each gender — across the four categories” – Obtained via The Cable.
The gender pay gap is a global illness. The only way out is to call out personal biases and ideologies about women’s capabilities that influence these decisions. This is a rot that has eaten deep into the fundamentals of society and needs to be cut out from the roots. Acknowledging and addressing these issues is the first step to take in the right direction towards equal pay.
Organisations must evaluate their tolerance for gender discrimination and enforce equal pay for equal value. Besides addressing institutional problems, closing the gender wage gap leads to an understanding of the systemic issues that actively hinder it. There should be transparency in salary discussions, especially considering women’s vast lack of knowledge in the industry pay range.
The Nigerian constitution highlights a non-discriminatory section that advocates against discrimination in the workplace. However, the Labour Standards bill – which supports equal pay for equal work submitted in the National Assembly in 2008, has yet to be passed. The Nigerian government must reevaluate its workplace discrimination policies, enforce the Labour Standards Bill and make adherence by organisations a non-negotiable. This will mark the beginning of a journey towards equal pay for equal work in Nigeria.
The role of women advocacy
As women, we must refuse to accommodate less-than-stellar rewards for work done in the workplace. The saying “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed” rings true. However, we recognize that more favourable rules enhances the courage to advocate for ourselves in negotiating more suitable pay for equal work value.
Within every woman lies the ability to become more than what we idealise. As a society, we must see women as more than just caregivers and nurturers. We must give room for every woman to fully become and exceed her potential. By providing equal wages for equal work, we are fulfilling a fundamental human right across all levels of society, especially for women. For this reason, the International Equal Pay Day has waxed strong since it was first observed in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity.
The International Equal Pay Day is an essential reminder that the gender pay gap is still an ongoing problem with broad ramifications. Governments, businesses, and individuals must work together to achieve pay equity. To close the gap, it is imperative to implement programs like salary transparency, anti-discrimination legislation, and gender bias education.