Have you ever attended a job interview where you faced a seemingly innocuous question about your plans for marriage (if you are unmarried) or child-planning (if you are married)? We are not joking, it’s true and a living example of the deep-seated patriarchy and gender stereotypes which differentiates men and women in our society. It is due to these stereotypes that it is believed that a woman’s place is at home, where she is responsible for cooking, cleaning, rearing children, and fulfilling the needs of the family while the man’s job is working along the front lines.
However, with time, these perceptions have changed. And as many women have joined the workforce, along with economic liberty, it has also led to deliberations about the ‘double burden’ that women are laden with along with the question of equal pay. While the first wave feminist movement took up the cudgels to demand the right to vote, in the second wave, women who had joined factories during World War II in place of men who were fighting the war, demanded equal pay, and as a result, President Kennedy had to introduce Equal Pay in the United States. However, nearly eight decades later, according to a study by the World Economic Forum, it has been observed that women are paid 63% of what men earn on a global level. And what’s shocking is that it is believed that it will take 202 years for the global pay gap to close.
This means that the task to accomplish full economic equality for women is incomplete and much needs to be done to close the pay gap. India ranks 87 in the Global Gender Gap rankings out of 135 countries, on the basis of criteria like economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
The Indian Scenario
In India, we recognize equal pay under the Equal Remuneration Act (1976), which forbids differential pay to men and women who are working on the same platform, for the same value of work. It states that any institution found guilty of violating these clauses could be punished up to one month or charged with an extended fine of ₹ 10,000. However, having legislations does not guarantee that the laws are followed everywhere, and as a result, unequal pay is a reality across many sectors. From cinema to garment factories and even sports, women receive lesser remuneration as compared to their male counterparts. The solution to this problem is not as simple and requires more political will than legislation.
Why is Equal Pay Important?
There are numerous benefits of equal pay. First, equal pay benefits organizations and helps induce higher workplace morale. This happens because by implementing equal pay for all genders, the organization delivers a strong message of work ethics, which motivates employees to work hard. This sets a chain reaction and helps in employee retention. Second, when both genders are equally well-compensated on the basis of talent, they feel rewarded and appreciated at the workplace, and as a result there are lesser chances of them looking for opportunities elsewhere. Third, when prospective employees know about a company’s policy of equal pay, they are interested to apply, thereby increasing the chances of attracting a better pool of applicants. Fourth, employees who work at institutions which adhere to this policy are well-compensated and hence, happier, as a result of which, the work outcome is positive.
Future of Equal Pay
Despite efforts being made to achieve an egalitarian society, a lot more needs to be done to advocate women’s rights and achieve an equal society. When we pay our women less, we are giving the message that their work isn’t equally valuable. Therefore, for a gender-neutral society to become a reality, it’s important that people aren’t differentiated on the basis of gender. Equal pay is not a demand or a choice, it’s a basic human right and should be granted as such.