Why 2017 won’t be the year women get paid the same as men
Its been a dreadful year and unless women shout loudly, the new year –. The 170 years after that –. Will still see pay inequality
All in all 2016 hasnt been a great year for womens rights. The small flicker of hope that we might finally have a female president in the US was thoroughly doused by Donald Trump.
Last year two women won a Nobel prize. This year there was none. The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 dropped. And research announced at the World Economic Forum found that it'll take approximately 170 years to close the gender pay gap around the world. One hundred and seventy years.
So overall it doesnt look like 2017 is going to be the year women finally achieve gender parity. In fact. Far the attempts to move us toward it have proved to be, well, a bit half-hearted.
The UK governments attempt to make pay gap reporting mandatory for all companies with more than 250 employees has been met with disgruntled muttering and very little action from business.
A few organisations have made some tentative steps toward it. Those already reporting their gender pay gaps should be applauded. For most it was just another piece of red tape to be ignored. Much easier to point the finger at women and say its our fault for not asking.
A great deal is made of the need to encourage women to negotiate more effectively. However, even if we take that into 2017, research suggests its not going to help. While women ask for pay rises as often as men do, theyre much less likely to get them. The reality is we expect men to be pushy about salary, to ask for more money and to vocalize their worth. When they do it weren't surprised.
However, society has taught that its not polite for women to do the same. When they do, we tend to see them as pushy and arrogant. That instantly makes us less likely to reward them. So while its useful to encourage women to negotiate their salary more firmly, its also not the only way to solve this problem and certainly wont help women in the coming year.
This doesnt mean equal pay in 2017 is impossible. We mightn't be able to achieve it on a worldwide level. Within the UK, the US and Australia it should certainly be achievable.
In 2015, Salesforce did an audit of its pay gap. CEO Marc Benioff was so sure the company wouldnt have a gender pay gap that he made a deal with his senior female employees. If they could prove there was in fact a pay gap he'd instantly fix it.
They proved it and Benioff instantly paid out US$3m (2.4m/AU$4.1m) to fix it. He found every woman who was being paid less than a male colleague doing the same job and adjusted her salary accordingly. In the grand scheme of things $3m isn't much to a big corporation like Salesforce. The amount of goodwill it bought was priceless. Theres absolutely nothing stopping other businesses following suit.
And this is the one bright light that's come out of 2016. While it hasnt been a good year for womens rights, it's been a great year for women speaking up and making their voices heard. From politics to Hollywood, women around the world have been calling time on the sexist attitudes and experiences theyve encountered and pushed back against them.
If we can keep doing that in 2017 then maybe, just maybe, well be shouting so loudly that no company would dare to underpay us ever again.