- Achieving gender pay equity across the globe will take 108 years, according to the Global Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum. The first index was released in 2006 to capture the extent of gender-based pay disparities and the progress made in ending them. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, the index benchmarks gender gaps based on health, economic, education and political criteria within 200 countries.
- Among key findings in the report, a 32% average gender gap remains to be closed, with improvements in 89 of the countries reported in 2017 and 2018. The largest gender disparity is in political empowerment, with a 77% gap. Economic participation and opportunity is the second-largest, at 42%, and the educational attainment and health and survival gaps are the lowest, at 4% and 5%, respectively. Of the countries assessed, only 17 currently have women as heads of state. On average, just 18% of ministers and 24% of parliamentarians worldwide are women, and women hold just 34% of managerial positions across the countries with available political data. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan were the worst performing countries in these areas, but there was full parity in the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Laos and the Philippines.
- The report also showed gaps remain in broad economic power areas including control of financial assets and time spent on unpaid tasks. In just 60% of the countries assessed, women have as much access to financial services as men, and in 42% of countries, women have access to land ownership. Among the 29 countries where data are available, women spend, on average, twice as much time on household chores and other unpaid work compared to men. Also, although gender parity in education is generally more advanced than in other areas, more than 20% of women are illiterate in 44 countries.
The length of time predicted for full pay equity to occur between women and men is sobering. A recent Georgetown University study concluded that gender-based pay disparity is being understated. Based on 15 years of analyses, the report puts women's actual earnings at 49% of men's, as opposed to the 80% typically recorded. The 2018 global index seems to affirm this conclusion in some economic and political areas.
Employers like Salesforce, Citigroup and Starbucks have moved to close the gender- and race-based, in some cases, pay gaps. However, social and economic pressures are encouraging other organizations to re-examine their compensation practices to flag and correct disparities and to take up more pay transparency. Employers in Willis Towers Watson's the 2018 Getting Compensation Right Survey, cited the factors driving change toward pay equity as manager feedback, a changing marketplace, employee feedback and costs.
Commissioner Charlotte Burrows of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said at a recent event that the U.S. has made progress in closing the pay gap since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, but that the results have been mixed. "Pay discrimination is still a lot more common than you might think given the amount of time you might hear about it from us and others, but there is also a real sense of urgency and momentum around this issue," Burrows said.
Various states and local governments have attempted to eliminate pay disparities by passing ordinances limiting salary history questions in recruiting, and EEOC lawsuits continue to challenge discrimination in pay practices. HR leaders can help speed up the pay-gap closure by working with managers to review pay practices, flag and correct inequities, and refer to compensation reports on which to base pay levels.