Fixing the pay gap – taking Gender out of the equation

India’s gender pay gap exceeds the world average. Well, not a pleasant note to begin “Equal Pay Day” now, is it? According to Monster India’s Salary Index 2017, the current gender pay gap in India stands at 20% – where men earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs. 231, in comparison, women earned only Rs. 184.8. While the study showed that the pay gap has in fact reduced by five points from 25% in 2016, it also states, ironically, that gender pay gap in India increases with work experience.
Well, how did pay gap arise in the first place? Interestingly, women started working for daily wages during the time of World War II. Work being physical labour, it took two women to match the output of a man, which led to the difference in the pay. Well, made sense then. But here we are in the Intelligence age where digital disruption has levelled the play field. No excuse for the Industrial Era hangover, whatsoever!
While all this is true, we may be missing a crucial insight or two here. Here is the truth – Unlike in many 1st world countries, in India, the gender pay gap is less accentuated and is not the result of discrimination or bias. It is more direct and logical. If we study the advent of the Indian woman onto the professional arena, it can be seen that she is a recent entrant – only about 3-4 decades since we have double digit figures of women’s workforce participation in India.

Data based on 2017 Working Mother & AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India
Major factors responsible for Gender Pay gap in India are, in fact –
a. Interrupted careers of women due to off-ramping and breaks.
b. When women come back, and in large numbers now thanks to efforts such as that of AVTAR’s which saw the first recorded second career program and career re-entry of over 400 women and over 15,000 women ever since, they are usually benchmarked against their last drawn salary.
c. Many returning women are not updated with the necessary skills which could allow them to catch up with the salaries of their peers.
These insights still don’t take away the hard truth that there is a gap. However, unlike in many western countries, in India it is lesser a result of obvious discrimination. So the solutions need to be directed at the indigenous problems. Here are some critical points that organizations should adopt to their policies and practices, to ensure there is Equal pay for all genders:
· Remove Unconscious Bias: One of the first, significant steps towards creating equality is to erase discriminatory practices. Organizations need to take gender out of the pay scale. Remunerations need to be merit based as should performance assessments and incentives. This is easier said than done, what with unconscious biases capable of influencing policy making as well as execution of those policies. It’s time organizations invested in eliminating these biases and creating true advocates of gender equality.
· Fix remunerations based on the job position in your organization: And not based on the last drawn salary. A best practice followed by Adobe India, one of the companies to achieve gender pay equality, discontinued the practice of using a candidate’s prior remuneration to determine the starting salary offered an important step to help counter the gender wage gap. This is a best practice that organizations can and should bring into their system if they are serious about bringing gender pay equality.
· Update Skills: An investment that organizations have to make for the returning women, skill-updates not only augur well for the day-to-day work but also boosts the confidence of the women for the long run. With well-meaning workshops/training programs that help women brush up on the latest developments in their respective fields, it also builds trust about the organization which in turn could result in women staying longer.
· Even breaks to foster even responsibilities: A great way to bring equality is by distributing responsibilities equally. While this is more to do with a societal change, organizations have a huge role to play in fostering this practice. One of the huge deterrents to a woman’s career, that also widens this pay gap, is the maternity break. As long as the entire burden of child rearing is with the woman, there is bound to be inequality. It is then the prerogative of the organizations to ensure there is an equally effective paternity leave that is not just in policy but an essential practice. This can go a long way in ensuring that men actively participate in the process. This will create not just sensitivity towards women’s career, but also will level the playfield.
· Bringing men into the conversation: One of the important conversations that we at AVTAR have been having in these past few years, is the need to bring men into the discussions of gender inequality. As mentioned earlier, biases are a result of a patriarchal approach while arriving at policies and practices in a typical organization. And this is a result of men outnumbering (sometimes, even obliterating) women at the decision making tables. While we should work towards equal gender representation, we need men to think for women too.

Data based on 2017 Working Mother & AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India
While the overall scene might look depressing, the story from Working Mother and AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India is truly inspiring! 59% of the 2017 – 100 Best Companies conduct surveys to ensure gender pay equity (22% up from 37% in 2016-100 Best), 80% of the Top 10 do so. To ensure zero gender disparity in wages, the 100 Best Companies employ several techniques to resolve grievances, if any. From weeding out unconscious biases during appraisal cycles (that can impact increments and net pay) to conducting market analyses and role-wise benchmarking to ensure parity in compensation, eliminating wage gaps is a hygiene check on the path to gender inclusivity for the 100 Best.

Data based on 2017 Working Mother & AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India
These are role models that other organizations, on the path to Gender Pay equality and eventually Gender Equality, should follow. We are sure that, with each passing edition of the Study, the gap will be bridged soon!
About the author:

Dr. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President, AVTAR Group
Dr. Saundarya Rajesh first embarked upon the idea of creating a community of women who had taken breaks in career in 2005, creating an online platform called www.avtariwin.com. She developed a simple profiling method which helped the women assess their own employability and also their readiness to re-enter the workplace. She has conceptualized and designed several programs and training interventions to bring women back into the workplace. One such program is SEGUE Sessions, India’s largest networking and career creation program for women returnees in India.
A woman entrepreneur with a vision, Saundarya believes that women’s careers will be one of the foremost success factors contributing towards India’s development in the coming years. Her work has ensured that corporates, educational institutions, families and the women themselves are educated about the unique nature of women’s careers and the steps to be taken to engage women professionals, in order to deliver all-round benefit. She was selected for as one of the #100 Women Achiever, an initiative by Government of India (Ministry of Women and Child Development).
Please note: The views, opinions and beliefs expressed by the authors in the articles on the blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Lean In India.

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