Betting on Gender Pay Equality: How Long Will It Take?

*Today’s guest post is by Mary Sue Rogers (@msrlondon on Twitter).  With over 30 years of experience in Human Capital and Talent Management, Mary Sue has been instrumental in building highly successful outsourcing, consulting and HR technology practices in NA, EMEA and Asia Pacific.  In addition to Human Capital, she is passionate about investing in the future – especially when it comes to women and children.  Spare time is travelling to places that provide great scuba diving.  You can reach out to her directly via her blog SaveHR.com.

There have been several recent articles on the gender pay gap, with various predictions on how long it will take to truly achieve pay equity. Research done by “Right Time” a company in the Manpower Group, said 17 years. Another prediction in the Guardian says 118 years. Personally, I am going with the 118 years if I had to bet.

Closeup of assorted coins.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. The time when the first countries granted women the right to vote (for example NZ) to the last (Saudi Arabia), has been approximately 120 years. The Vatican is the only place in the world that women cannot vote.
  2. It was over 40 years ago that the Equal Rights Amendment was approved by the USA House and Senate, but it was never ratified by enough states, and died in 1982.
  3. It has been only 50 years since the UK and USA banned specifying a preferred gender in recruitment ads, and there are countries where this is still allowed. Japan only passed guidelines in 2015.
  4. It has been just over 40 years since women in the USA who were not married, did not have to have a man guarantee their bank loan irrespective of their financial net worth.
  5. The equal pay act in the USA, UK, and Australia has been in place less than 50 years. For some countries, like Switzerland, it has been less than 25 years.

So if you were Hilary Clinton, when you left University at age 21, it was still legal to specify gender in a recruitment ad. She would have had to ask her dad to co-sign for a loan, and if she was born in the UK, it would have been legal to discriminate due to gender.

For Ginni Rometty, Meg Whitman or Mary Barra, CEO’s of some of the world’s largest companies, when they graduated from university the USA was struggling to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. In the UK they would have been taxed with their husbands and not as individuals. If they were in Japan, they would not have been able to keep their name when they got married, they had to change to their husbands.

If you were Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co, who was born in India, it was even more challenging as India did not give women the right to vote until 1945. This was just 10 years before she was born. Things were similar for Angela Merkel who was born in the old GDR (East Germany), which was under Russian rule until 1954, the year she was born.

If you used historical change to forecast the future you would most likely bet with the Guardian prediction of 118 years. In 2014, the median full-time wage and salary for women was 81% of what it was for men, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics. The 19 cent difference is an improvement from 38 cents in 1979. So 35 years to gain 19 cents. And according to the same source, the difference has remained between 17 and 20 cents for the past dozen years. So forecasting would put you at best case around 35 years, worse case forever.

Equal pay is very important for global and local economic and social wellbeing. We should get there as fast as we can, but if I was going to have a flutter on when based on history I would place my bet with the 100 versus the 20 years. Maybe governments and business around the world will prove me wrong.

2 Replies to “Betting on Gender Pay Equality: How Long Will It Take?”

  1. I just had a guest speaker (Deborah Love the Vice President of the Office of Institutional Equity at Tulane) in my Diversity in HR Management come talk about this issue. She mentioned a MIT study, A Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT, to highlight the gap between men and women in the professional world. What I found really interesting about it when I read it, was not only the inequitable pay between the genders but also the lack of resources that would allow female professors to advance on their career track. My question is as a graduating senior about to enter the business world, how do I combat inequality in the workplace?

  2. Great question. The first thing you can do is focus your job seeking attention towards organisations that have good reputations for creating an equitable workplace, this can be done with research and using sites such as Glassdoor, or their website to see how many women or minorities they have on their board. Second, think about the types of questions you might ask in an interview that will help you decide if they have an equitable culture – things like “how many women are in roles similar to what I am talking to you about?” Good luck with your search.

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