Patricia Arquette (Patricia Arquette)
Patricia Arquette
(Patricia Arquette)

It will pay to be fair

Even as the women of Hollywood take a stand on gender pay gap, women in our boardrooms and on the ground need to get into the fray if equal pay for equal work is to become a reality

Among other things, this year’s Oscars award ceremony will be remembered for Patricia Arquette, the winner of the best supporting actress, putting the spotlight on the subject of gender pay gap. Coming close on the heels of an email hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment in November, which revealed significant pay disparity between the male and female actors of the film American Hustle, it has made the debate even hotter.

The emails revealed that the women actors (Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence) received 7% of the profits for American Hustle compared to the 9% that their male co-stars (Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner) got.

Hollywood is not alone. Working women in large parts of the world are still paid less than men, even if they have a better combination of characteristics, including education, experience, seniority, work sector, location and work hours, according to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) Global Wage Report 2014-15. Men were paid more than women in the 38 countries surveyed, including the US, China, India, Brazil and Italy, with gaps ranging from 4-36%.

Gender pay gap—the difference between a man’s and a woman’s average pay for the same type of work—is a global reality and is prevalent across industries and job levels, albeit in varying degrees. For the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the gender pay gap in average full-time earnings is 17.3%; women aged 35-44 with tertiary education on average earn 73% of what their male counterparts do, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report 2014.

On an average, Indian women earn almost 20% lower wages compared to men, according to data by the National Sample Survey Office on “Informal Sector and Conditions of Employment in India" for 2011-12; it covered all occupations, except crop farming, which engages more than half of the workforce. Huge pay gaps exist even in the new economy and services sectors like banking, financial services and information technology (IT). In fact, women face a pay gap of 29% in the IT sector, according to the Monster Salary Index India IT Sector Report 2014 by employment website Monster. The report, which surveyed around 2,000 participants, says that a male IT worker receives a gross wage of 359.25 per hour, while a woman gets 254.04 per hour.

Even at the senior management level, huge gender pay gaps exist. A 2013 Bloomberg report says on average women executives at the top at Standard & Poor’s (S&P’s) 500 Index earned 18% less than their male counterparts. The pay gap is also a corollary of having fewer women at the top and in leadership positions. At present, women hold 4.8% of chief executive officer (CEO) positions at S&P 500 companies—there are 24 women CEOs in 500 companies, according to Catalyst, a US-based non-profit that promotes inclusive workplaces for women. Representation of women on company boards in India is only 9.5%, while it is 19.2% in Australia, according to New Global 2014 Catalyst Census, which tracks women board directors across 20 countries. “More men climb up the corporate ladder than women. Until more women rise to leadership positions, gender equality cause will largely remain unaddressed," says Sangeeta Sabharwal, managing partner at executive search firm The Taplow Group, India. “In fact, companies with greater gender diversity are more successful in reducing gender biases and pay gaps than male-dominated set-ups," adds Sabharwal.

Behind the gap

Actors Meryl Streep (left) and Jennifer Lopez appreciate colleague Patricia Arquette’s (on top) stand on gender pay gap at the recent Oscars ceremony
Actors Meryl Streep (left) and Jennifer Lopez appreciate colleague Patricia Arquette’s (on top) stand on gender pay gap at the recent Oscars ceremony
Close