SA plunges to 117 out of 149 countries in gender wage equality

Eradicating the gender pay gap will make a significant contribution to transformation of the South African economy by improving workplace equality and alleviating poverty and financial vulnerability that particularly affects women – and corporate board directors and investors have a key role to play.

The 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Report ranks South Africa’s gender equality 19th out of 149 countries, but on the element of wage equality for similar work the ranking plunges to 117th.

South Africa’s labour market has changed little in the past decade – remaining more favourable to men, who are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race. Addressing the pay gap between men and women is an important step towards income justice for South African women,” says Anita Bosch, Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour and Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and holds the Research Chair: Women at Work.

Women’s lower level of education is often cited as a reason for lower pay, but Prof Bosch said South African women were graduating at the same rate, or better than, men in higher-paid fields such as commerce, science, engineering and technology, “which renders the argument that women do not have the right types of qualifications null and void”.

In her latest research on the gender pay gap in South Africa, Prof Bosch says corporate board members and investors can exercise “responsible activism” to address gender-based wage inequality in the companies they lead or invest in.

“As directors and shareholders, they have rights and responsibilities that can be used to positively influence organisations to take a stand against pay discrimination. Pay equality can be seen as a compliance issue, or it could be regarded as a focus on fairness and the basic right to equality, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution,” she said.

Prof Bosch said that, firstly, board members and shareholders can exercise their oversight role to ensure that companies are complying with legislation and corporate governance codes on equal pay for equal work and reporting on pay differentials and remuneration policies.