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South African businesses: publish your gender pay gap

South African businesses: publish your gender pay gap!

Donna Rachelson, author of South Africa’s best-selling book Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business has called on South African businesses to publish their gender pay gap. This follows recent calls for companies in Britain which have more than 250 staff members, to publicly report their own gender pay gap. Britain joins a handful of other countries round the world which have done the same.

“It seems absurd that a country such as South Africa that has such advanced labour practices, still has gender pay issues. If pay issues becomes more transparent, it can be more actively addressed than in the clandestine way it is currently handled. A pay gap audit will offer a way forward with quantifiable facts. Evidence has also indicated that less secrecy around pay results in greater employee loyalty and lower staff turnover. Boards need to pay closer attention to gender pay issues as there are potential legal implications,” cautions Rachelson.

In South Africa the gender pay gap is estimated to be between 15% and 17% according to the SA Board for People Practices Women’s Report 2015. This means that for every one Rand a man earns, a woman only earns around 85c. Or put another way, South African women need to work two extra months in a year to be paid the same as a man would in a year. This has long term implications. Women lose out on pension and other benefits that are related to basic salary. It has been estimated in the US for instance, that women who are as educated as men, lose between $700 000 and $2 million over their lifetime to unfair pay practices.

In South Africa, the Employment Equity Act sets out non-discrimination legislation, the principle of equal pay for equal value. So men, women, different race groups and those with disabilities should not be earning differently for the same work. This however is more in theory than in practice.

Reasons for the pay gap

There is a historic bias to pay men more and undervaluing women’s skills and workplace contributions.

In the book by economist Linda Babcock, Women don’t ask, she states that one reason for the gap is that men are four times more likely to ask for a raise than women are, and women actually do ask, they ask for 30% less. Says Amy Pascal, previous chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment, “Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money. Women shouldn’t work for less money. They should know what they’re worth. Women shouldn’t take less.”

Women downplay their achievements and attempt to communicate in as non-threatening a way as possible which is not conducive to getting higher pay. It was also found that around 66% of women tend to accept a wage offer without negotiating any aspect of it.

Other issues include the implications of child bearing such as career breaks as well as less investment in women’s training and development. The issue of the motherhood penalty and fatherhood bonus fuels pay differences. When women take a career break due to children responsibilities it affects their pay, but men who become fathers are seen as breadwinners and having to support a family and consequently they are paid more.

Subject choices that girls make at school have implications for their future pay. Maths and Science skills are scarce and therefore attract higher pay. Girls tend to regard themselves as incompetent at these subjects.

Sharing information on a salary slip is taboo so it is difficult for women to compare their salaries with their counterparts.

Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business

In Rachelson’s latest book published this year. she explores nine practical lessons to ensure women succeed more in the workplace:

  1. Business is a game
  2. It’s not personal
  3. Don’t wait to get noticed
  4. Ditch the small, incremental moves
  5. Ask, don’t hint
  6. Focus on results and deliverables
  7. Say it! (It doesn’t have to be 100%)
  8. Work your network like a man
  9. Fake it till you are it

In South Africa, the book is published by BrandingandmarketingYOU Publications.

It is available at all fine South African bookstores.
The ebook is available on Kindle and iBooks.
Available for purchase from Amazon and