The persistence of the gender pay gap
As highlighted in a recent report by ChamberofCommerce.org, the gap between median earnings for men and women exceeds $10,000 annually in over half of 150 metropolitan areas analyzed in the US. But this inequality spans borders and economies.
Globally, women earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, translating to a 23% average pay gap worldwide. While country-specific estimates vary, the gap is near-universal. Women in Canada make 74 cents to the male dollar. In Japan, it’s 73 cents. Across the EU, the average gap sits at 14%.
Causes of the global pay gap
What drives these inequities? As with the US, occupational segregation, family care responsibilities, and discrimination all play a role internationally. But global data also reveals promising pathways to progress. Many countries are pioneering policies and practices that successfully narrow gender pay divides.
Iceland, for instance, recently became the first nation to mandate pay equality through legislation requiring companies to obtain equal pay certification. Spain now requires disclosure of wage ranges in job postings to improve transparency. Germany, South Korea, and others have expanded access to affordable childcare. Paid parental leave policies are extending across high-income countries.
Strategies for closing the gap
While specific solutions must align with national context, the global struggle for equal pay reveals shared challenges – and a roadmap of proven strategies. With a multifaceted approach, countries worldwide can accelerate progress in closing gender wage gaps for the benefit of women, families, communities, and economies.
Anonymous hiring procedures, where demographic information is removed from applications, can reduce unconscious bias in the recruiting process. This helps ensure women and minorities are evaluated equitably for job opportunities.
Negotiation and leadership training
Programs focused on building negotiation skills and confidence empower women to advocate for higher pay and promotions. Leadership training also equips women to advance into higher-level, higher-paying roles.
Organizations should set specific diversity goals for the percentage of women on boards and in executive positions. This disrupts “old boys’ clubs” and the underrepresentation of women in leadership.
Shared parental leave
Policies encouraging fathers to take paternity leave, through bonuses or mandated minimums, allow women to return to work more quickly after having children. Sharing childcare responsibilities also reduces career interruptions for women.
Formal mentorship initiatives focused on advancing women, including sponsorship by senior leaders, provide guidance to help overcome obstacles to advancement and higher pay.
Investment in training
Funding programs that help women gain qualifications for higher-paying roles in STEM, finance, and other fields expands career opportunities. This applies both to secondary education and mid-career skills training.
Recognizing and rewarding progress
Awards or certifications granted to organizations that achieve pay equity incentivize companies to prioritize closing gender wage gaps. Progress should be celebrated.
Strengthening pay discrimination legislation
Laws banning pay discrimination must be coupled with rigorous enforcement. Penalties for violations should act as a meaningful deterrent for unfair pay practices.
Challenging gender stereotypes
From a young age, gender norms steer women and men towards certain careers. Campaigns to break down outdated stereotypes help diversify fields and improve pay equity.
Incentivizing women in STEM
Scholarships, mentoring programs, and highlighting successful role models motivate girls to pursue high-paying STEM careers where women remain underrepresented.
Improving access to childcare
Affordable, available childcare allows mothers to remain engaged in the workforce. On-site childcare options also facilitate returning to work quickly after having children.
Offering flexible working
Flexible schedules, telecommuting, and shift-sharing accommodate caregiving responsibilities. These options allow women to advance professionally without sacrificing family obligations.
Achieving pay equity is a complex challenge requiring commitment across many dimensions. But countries around the world are making progress, pioneering innovative models to close gender wage gaps. There is no single solution, but rather a spectrum of proven strategies we can learn from and build on.
Samantha Taylor is an Outreach Specialist at the Chamber of Commerce.