A Call To Women To Stop Fuelling The Gender Pay Gap


There is yet another global study across 45 different countries over 40 years out, confirming that wives still earn less than half what their husbands earn. While this will come as no surprise to any woman, I personally thought things were getting better. They are to a certain extent: the intra-household pay gap has reduced by 20% in the last 40 years. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but the fact still remains that, globally, wives earn less than 50% of what husbands earn even in the Scandinavian countries.


The household is a place of great inequality! Who would have thought! What happened to ‘Charity begins at home’? The home is the place where we are all supposed to get our values to help steer us through this world. Yet, even though the corporate world has been pilloried for the gender pay gap, the home has got away without taking its share of the blame.


The gender pay gap does not happen in the abstract and only comes into effect in workplaces. Workplaces are populated by people, people come from homes and families. What is normalised for them at home, plays out in the workplace.


So what is happening at home? Women are doing 72% of the unpaid care work as this International Labour Organisation report shows, that is what is up. Unfortunately society does not factor unpaid care work or who does them, into the importance of financial valuation stakes. So you have generations growing up thinking it is alright to minimise the contribution women make in the home when it comes to financial evaluation. Dad comes home from a long day at work and is allowed to put his feet up whereas mum who has had an even longer day working at home, has to soldier on.


This scenario gets even worse when the woman decides to work outside the home because she comes home from a long day at work and carries on regardless at home like she never went out to work. Guess what, the children see it. The next generation of leaders and CEOs see this inequality but it is their norm. There is a cultural and structural element to the gender pay gap that will not go away unless that charitable attitude towards women starts at home.


And, here is the shocker, it has to start with the women themselves! Believe it or not, in the home, the mother is an incredibly powerful centre of gravity around whom everyone else revolves. If she decides there is going to be equitable living in the household where everyone’s efforts are recognised regardless of the financial value, soon we will be churning out a generation where women’s work and contribution will no longer be minimised.


Traditionally men are seen as breadwinners, and women as homemakers but even when women go out to work, they are still seen as homemakers. Then there is the career break that some women take while child rearing which doesn’t help the gender pay gap because again the only thing we are putting financial value on is hard cash.


Here’s the deal, there are only 24 hours in the day for both men and women and a household. They both need to sit down and decide how many hours of their day is spent on work, paid on unpaid and decide on the value they choose to put on their work. This exercise alone will wake a lot of men up and go a long way to closing the pay gap. How? Because suddenly, it will not be the case of invisible unpaid work against visible paid work. It will just be work. That is when equality will get a chance.


That is how the next generation will get a chance to go into the workplace looking to treat and pay women equally. For me, the people that can affect this change on the ground are the women in their homes. If this doesn’t happen, we will be getting a report in another 40 years from now, telling us the same thing about the gender pay gap.


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