Gender salary gap narrowing slowly

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

Do today's successful career women know the value they bring to an organisation?

They are confident about presenting their skills, capabilities, and worth, but why do they remain under-represented in the workforce? Why do they continue to be paid less than their male counterparts?

Figures from the Department of Labour gender equity show that, across all industries, women in top management increased from 14percent to 18percent between 2003 and 2007, while those in senior management increased from 22percent to 25 percent.

But professionally qualified women and those in middle management dropped from 36 percent to 33percent, while those in skilled positions dropped from 40percent to 37 percent.

The government has done far better than the private sector, with women in the Cabinet reaching 33percent earlier this year, while those chairing state-owned enterprises reaching 24percent.

This compares with just under 3percent of women chairing JSE-listed companies and female JSE executive and non-executive directors coming in at 13percent.

Sandra Burmeister, chief executive officer of recruitment firm Landelahni Business Leaders, says while there has been a good flow of women through to senior and top management, there is a need to create a pipeline at every level of the organisation to ensure continuity in the future.

But the gender pay gap in South Africa is just under 25 percent, while in Sweden, where the best international scenario occurs, women earn 8percent less than their male peers.

In Japan women are the worst off in relation to their male colleagues, earning 33percent less. The US is not much better, at 28percent and the UK comes in at 19percent.

The information and telecommunications sector leads the way with a pay gap of slightly below 18percent, followed by the industrial sector at 19percent, services at 27percent, financial services at 28percent and resources lagging at 37percent.

Though research shows that single women earn more than or the same as men after graduation, this only lasts for the first five years of their careers.

Burmeister says: "Generally, men are more inclined towards positions with bottom-line responsibility, working longer hours for more years, taking financial risks, relocating to remote locations, favouring technology or hard sciences and attending business schools.

"But there is an unexplained pay gap, where social and cultural factors play a big role."

Burmeister says it is time women close the gender pay gap and earn what they are worth.

"Successful women put as much time into managing their career as they do their job.

"They should track their outputs and achievements linked to key responsibilities, make sure they report them regularly - in writing - and use this as a portfolio of evidence during performance reviews and salary increases," she says.

Burmeister, whose company has placed a number of women in executive positions throughout the country, believes that though the pace is slow, the pay gap is decreasing.

"Women need to recognise and value their own capabilities and experience and keep their knowledge current through training and leadership development programmes.

"It's the woman's responsibility to invest in her own skills. Their skills are their best tool to ensure that they are always in demand and receiving appropriate reimbursement for the work they do," Burmeister argues.