Commentary

Close that workplace gender gap

Published: March 6, 4:42 PM
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The world once again finds itself celebrating International Women’s Day this Friday, March 8. There are many reasons to celebrate women’s and girls’ achievements. One obvious achievement we can boast about is that the gender gap in education has reversed in many parts of the world, as now girls more than boys are more likely to enter college and graduate.

While this is clearly progress for women – since receiving an education signals empowerment as theoretically it puts women on an equal playing field with men in enabling them to seek out wage work – gender equality in education does not automatically translate into gender equality in the workplace.

In fact, women still face persistent obstacles in the workplace because this domain remains largely male-dominated.

Several reasons point to why the gender gap in the workplace should be closed. The most obvious rationale is that closing the gap in employment actually spurs GDP growth rates as well as improves economic competitiveness and corporate performance.

Moreover, women bring a different approach to social interactions in the workplace, says President of Harvard University Drew Gilpin Faust.

PERSISTENT WAGE GAP

Making the workplace inclusive for women may be achieved in several ways. Ensuring equal pay for equal work across the sexes is one attempt at engendering gender equality.

In the United States, for example, in spite of the wage gap closing from 62 per cent from 1979 to 82 per cent in 2011 for men and women (according to data from the US Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics published in October 2012), a gap still persists with older female workers not being compensated as well as their younger counterparts.

In Southeast Asia also, men continue to earn more than women. According to the World Economic Forum, several countries in the region surpassed the average score of 0.64 documented for 135 countries in 2012 (with a score of 1 denoting gender equality). The Philippines (0.79), Thailand (0.74), Malaysia (0.82) and Singapore (0.81) are examples. Others, however, such as Indonesia and Vietnam fared relatively poorly in comparison with their neighbours, scoring 0.67 and 0.68 respectively

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