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Forbes Woman Africa: Unequal Pay For Equal Work

Donna’s book Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business is featured in this month’s Forbes Woman Africa magazine. The full article is reproduced here.

Unequal Pay For Equal Work

Samantha Steele

Every time a woman earns R89 ($6), a man earns R100 ($7).

That` s right. Seventy years since women joined the workforce en masse, these inequalities are as real, though more insidious than ever, and the repercussions of this disparity ripple across a woman` s entire lifetime. Payslips serve as benchmarks for future raises and these differences accumulate over time, into the difference it takes to pay back student loans and the amount it possible to save for retirement.

The wage gap is also maddeningly ubiquitous. Women in executive positions in South Africa earn 11% less than men, 13% less it management, and an enormous 21% less in professional roles, according to research and consultant firm Mercer.

This difference is set up from childhood.
“Girls are socialized differently,” says Anita Bosch, lead researcher at the Women in the Workplace Research Programme at the Faculty of Management at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Girls aren` t encouraged to enjoy and be good at Maths and Science, and this, says Bosch, changes their possible career choices.

Donna Rachelson, the author of Play To Win: What Women Can Learn From Men In Business, says that socialization is even more subtle than simply what subjects are taken in school.
“Men learn that games are win or lose, and this attitude is taken into the workplace when it comes to salary negotiations,” says Rachelson.

Yolisa Phahle, the CEO of MNet, comes from the BBC in London, and says that in her international experience, many companies prohibit salary discussions amongst employees and it’s difficult to know where the differential comes in.

“I always felt that men earned more,” says Phahle, “But without the numbers it’s hard to prove, and hard to negotiate.”

Luckily for her, her husband was always a step or two above her on the career ladder, and she had a benchmark when it came to raise negotiations.

However, this is not the norm and asking for a raise is certainly a significant part of the problem.

“The assumption is if I do good work, it’ll be seen and I’ll be rewarded for it,” says Bosch. “But that’s not the case. Companies aren’t benevolent. If you need a raise, you must ask for it.”

Women tend to wait until they’re certain they deserve a promotion before approaching management, whereas men negotiate that raise long before.

“Demand more, don’t sit back and just say thank you,” says Lee-Anne Bac, a director of advisory services at Grant Thornton.

“Women are also penalized for their parental responsibilities,” she adds.

Leaving work early is frowned upon, and yet society expects women to bear the bulk of the burden of parenthood. This leads to what is called the ‘motherhood penalty’ and the ‘fatherhood bonus’.

Aside from career paths thrown offtrack by maternity leave, the possibility that a woman could fall pregnant and that her time could or is taken up by parental responsibilities takes a hefty toll on salaries and career trajectories. The opposite is true for men. Being perceived as the breadwinner gives married fathers a salary bump over their single colleagues. Bac says women need to challenge their organizations, and make their partners your true partner in all aspects.

“My husband and I both get home at 5.30PM, spend time with our child and continue work later that evening,” says Bac.

These inequalities are rooted in a patriarchal past, with a workplace built around men. But with an increasingly large female workforce, it’s essential that change takes place for a healthy economy.

No one thing is going to change the wage parity, and remember, as Rachelson says:
“Don’t try to be like a man, just understand how the game is played.”