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Women still earn less, so we must fix the gender pay gap in Kenya.

By Dorcus Osongo

Despite the work done so far on gender equality, women and men still receive different amounts of pay for comparable work. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the gender pay gap refers to the difference between the average earnings of women and men in the workforce. In Kenya, the gender pay gap is an undeniable reality as women mostly get a fraction of men’s earnings for working in a similar post and carrying out the same responsibilities. Workplaces have been reluctant to close the gender pay gap, whose one major cause is discrimination based on one’s gender or sex. The United Nations (UN) warns that at the current rate, it will take workplaces globally 257 years to close the global gender pay gap. I do not know about you, but I, for one, understand that the existence of a gender pay gap for even a day more is unfair as women cannot keep earning less than men for akin work. The Kenyan government, corporations, the private sector, and other employment bodies must make efforts towards closing the gender pay gap to create an equal and fair society for all.

Statistics that shed light on the gender pay gap in Kenya

The 2022 Global Gender Gap Report sheds light on the current gender pay gap situation in Kenya. Kenya has closed 72.9 percent of its gender pay gap, taking a slow but sure step towards gaining full equality in how women and men are paid. Kenya has generally improved its overall performance, and the report shows that the country is among a set of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that will take 98 years to close the gender pay gap. This improvement comes from Kenya’s step to close the gender pay gap for workers in senior positions.

It is important to note that despite the improvement, 98 years is still a long time for a country to keep perpetrating unfairness in wages between women and men. Furthermore, if Kenya can close the gender pay gap for employees in senior positions, it will have the ability to do the same for other workers regardless of their status in the workplace. Closing the gender pay gap should not take that long because abolishing its main cause is simple; what workplaces have to do is end discrimination based on one’s gender and sex and pay men and women equally for akin work done. So, as much as gender pay gap statistics show Kenya is heading in the right direction, the country has room for improvement. Kenya should take fewer years than estimated to reach the status of countries such as Iceland, which has closed the gender pay gap by 90 percent.

Why do women still earn less than men?

If closing the gender pay gap simply lies in ending discrimination based on one’s gender and sex, then one might ask themselves, why does this inequality in wages still persist in Kenya and globally? Firstly, unconscious and conscious bias in workplaces has enhanced the gender pay gap as employers are biased in hiring and pay decisions. Women are seldom hired for high-paying positions, and when, fortunately, they get these positions, women are paid less as employers tend to view men as more competent. Prof Grace Wamue-Ngare, the Director Centre for Gender Equity and Empowerment at Kenyatta University, told the Nation that most organizations have men at the executive levels, whose combined salaries can pay the wages of all women at the lower level. This difference shows that companies are willing to hire men at higher positions, pay them more, and ignore the qualified women at lower levels who are paid peanuts.

Secondly, it is taking longer to close this gap due to the myth that the gender pay gap is a lie perpetuated by feminists who use statistics fraudulently to push for their agenda. This obstacle is simple to explain as people who do not believe in the fact of the gender pay gap will not take any necessary steps towards changing this inequality and unfairness. However, this myth is easily debunked by data, which shows the existence of the gender pay gap in companies. Statistics show that eight in ten companies pay male employees more, and other organizations pay men twice as much as women. Statistics is a powerful tool that can be used to debunk myths that dismiss the gender pay gap and set countries on a path to right this wrong.

What Kenyan women say about the gender pay gap?

Kenyan women have much to say when it comes to the gender pay gap, as they hope their voices will bring fairness and equality in wages. Linda Gichuhi, a journalist at a top media house in Kenya, says that the gender pay gap is a reality in Kenyan media houses. “I was shocked when I discovered that a colleague, I was hired with at the same time earns almost three times my wages despite us both working as fact-checkers,” says Grace. Grace’s case is not isolated, as women doing menial jobs have also reported receiving pay lower than that of their male counterparts.

Rita Oloo, a janitor at a public hospital in Nairobi, was devastated when she learned that her male colleagues earned more than her. She did not understand when they did a similar job, and, in most cases, she worked overtime with no extra pay. “As a married woman, you have a man taking care of you, but these men take care of themselves and their families,” Rita was told by her supervisor when she raised the issue. Rita’s case is a scenario where conscious gender discrimination comes into play, affecting her earnings as a woman. These Kenyan women hope that their remuneration can be determined fairly and equally with no discrimination based on gender, which will lead to the closing of the gender pay gap.

So, how do we fix the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is a human-caused problem that can be fixed by us if we choose to take the right actions. The UN proposes transparency in payment to address gender wage gaps. It is hard to pay males higher females lower when remunerations are made open and transparent in companies. Women who also find out they are getting paid lower than their male counterparts will use this transparency to negotiate for equal and fair pay. Pay transparency is an innovative solution that will help tackle this stubborn problem.

The culture of gender insensitivity and bias in workplaces also has to come to an end if we are to close the gender pay gap. It is time companies have clear laws that show zero tolerance for gender bias and insensitivity, as this step will ensure men and women receive fair pay regardless of their sex. The Brighter Monday notes that archaic cultural views such as women deserve low pay because their husbands will provide for them have no standing place today. Organizations need to ensure gender and cultural bias does not play any role in the wages paid to both men and women.

Finally, an increased awareness of the gender pay gap is needed, which will give women more motivation to negotiate their worth during salary negotiations. Ms. Betty Rariewa, a HR practitioner at the Human Consultant Ltd, told the Nation that women tend to shy away from selling their value and asking for pay that matches their skills. Unlike men, women do not speak loudly about their accomplishments and strengths.  Educating more women on the gender pay gap and salary negotiations will get them to the point of understanding their value during salary negotiations. The power to bridge the gender pay gap also lies in women’s hands, so they should not hesitate to demand their worth and point out workplace inequalities that are skewed against them.

Conclusion

It is evident that solutions to the gender pay gap are accessible and implementable. Companies should ensure they promote a culture of gender equality and fairness in all sectors. Organizations also need to be transparent about payments and promotions. Women must know that they have the power to change things through pay negotiations, knowing their value, and asking for remunerations that reflect their worth. The gender pay gap is neither inevitable nor a myth, as its causes are eradicable when necessary, steps, laws, and actions are taken.

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