A long walk to equality

Conversations about equality have been gradually gaining momentum over the last few years, fueled by national social movements, including #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. Inequality is a multifaceted problem that cuts across many industries. Companies are increasingly talking about inclusion as a desired cultural norm while public figures – like Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson – are unashamedly lending their voices to social movements that promote equality.

Gender gaps are the most prominent social imparities. As evaluated by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2020, an average gender parity of 69% has been achieved globally thus far, a marginal improvement from 2018’s 68%. This implies that to date, there is still a 31% average gender-based disparity that remains to be closed. Europe and the Americas appear to be closing the gender gap much faster than their African and Asian counterparts, who fall below the world average.

While parity is close to being achieved in health (97%) and education (96%), women are severely under-represented in politics (25%). The fact that only a handful of countries have closed at least 50% of their political empowerment gaps demonstrates how, globally, women’s presence and participation in politics is still extremely limited. But gender earnings gaps are a more topical conversation.

According to the WEF, 58% parity has been achieved thus far in terms of economic opportunities for women. Women are among the historically, socio-economically disadvantaged groups that feel the brunt of economic crisis. Women’s economic security is undermined by a myriad of factors – including the disproportionate amount of time they spend on unpaid work – as well as undervaluing of their traditionally female-dominated paid-care work. Disproportionate pay impacts women in all industries. A study by UN
Women found that, globally, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men for work of equal value.

Pay equality remains, irrefutably, decades away and a concerted effort is clearly needed. While some progress may have been recorded in improving pay parity, the United Nations reports that it could take a quarter of a millennium for women to be paid equal to men, at the current rate. Closing this gap is a systemic issue. The pandemic has also setback earlier gender equality progress, not just in terms of pay gaps, but also in labour force participation and unemployment rates. The current situation is far from sustainable and it is imperative to promote equal pay – and access to opportunities – for all, including people with disabilities who tend to earn
less than those with no disabilities.

The fight against imparity may seem like a long one, but we are more likely to win when working together and as parts of strong, supportive, global
networks. Changing these systemic injustices will not happen spontaneously, but it is possible. Thinking beyond equal compensation to equal opportunities, employers that allowed employees to work from home during the pandemic might be more open to conversations about long-term
remote work in the future. This will be a major win for caring mums and physically challenged persons.

Education opportunities must be accessible to all, and efforts to eliminate societal biases and imparities must be implemented. Moreover, employers must stop perpetuating practices that enable fundamental unfairness to endure. Institutional investors, shareholders, and policymakers can become active proponents of equality — increasing pressure on boards to fulfill their oversight role. Laws prohibiting employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history and, in some cases, prevent employers from using an applicant’s pay history to establish an offer could limit further imparity in earnings.

But as you are looking to graduate and join new jobs for full-time positions, or are eyeing summer internships and co-ops, or closing out another fiscal year at our current organization or finalizing your contracts for your new roles, remember to do your research into understanding how your pay
compares to market standards. And there could be no better day to do so than today!!!