Sometime around the end of my CA apprenticeship, I was sent to a large company for an audit where I was delegated to the Human Resources Department. In audits, usually, your team is given a separate workspace and papers from all the different departments come to your room – all departments, except Human Resources. If you’re allocated HR, you have go to their department for the papers and work from there because of the confidentiality and the sensitivity of the information contained in the department.
During my time there, I learned why the information was sensitive, among other things – the salaries varied from employee to employee and as it turned out, the women employees were paid lesser than their male counterparts.
The Wage Gap
The gender wage gap is an international problem that plagues even first world countries today. The BBC for instance, reported recently that three out of four firms pay higher wages to men than they do to women. The gender wage gap in India varies from sector to sector but it ranges from around 15% to 26%. This means women employees earn 15 to 26% lesser than their male counterparts and to make matters worse, numbers indicate that the gap widens with age.
There are a number of reasons for this, starting from our society’s attitudes towards working women and the familial pressure on women to quit when there is ‘no need’ for an extra income, which is usually the case why highly qualified women quit their jobs in favour of caretaking and household management in higher income families. It doesn’t help that women are also more apprehensive about asking for money out of fear of coming across as desperate or aggressive, even though they have the qualifications and experience to deserve the money!
The Crying Baby Gets The Milk
If you’re just entering the career market, do your research with respect to what the average pay is among the male employees in your area of expertise. This way, you’ll know what to quote when the ‘What is it that you’re expecting’ question is thrown your way. Quote your figure politely but confidently, and preferably on the higher side of the salary you’re expecting because there will be a round of negotiations. So, even if the figure you quote is dialled down, it won’t be completely off the mark. It’s important to not be coquettish around salary and bonus related discussions because the company isn’t really giving you free money – you are being compensated for the services that you are qualified to provide or have provided.
Low Pay in The Long Run
The severity of the wage gap will hit you around the time you retire because when your wages are lower, the amount sent to your PF is lower, your ability to save is lower and as a direct result your savings at the time of retirement are lower. Add to the fact that women’s life expectancy is considerably higher than men’s, you’ll find yourself stretched for money or being completely dependent on your children and relatives during your silver years. Let’s also not forget that women are simply not compensated for taking care of the household and raising children, and that even between working couples, it is the woman who takes primary care of the household and child rearing. The time has come for us to initiate serious conversations in our own workplaces about narrowing this gap and widening our futures.
Rupee Rani is a weekly column on finance for women. Write to us with your queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.