As 9 August marks Women’s day in South Africa, the gender pay gap has once again been highlighted as a key topic of discussion – and rightfully so considering the already poor state of the South African economy. While the concept of the gender pay gap existing between men and women has been widely acknowledged as valid, there are counter-arguments and explanations for such gaps – they’re just more difficult to come by given the lack of media attention and the unfavourable spotlight such engagements might bring.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, however, Associate Professor at the University of Stellenbosch’s Business School, Anita Bosch explained that the gender pay gap reflects differently in different industries and income brackets. She also indicated that overall, women earn less as a grouping in South Africa.
“In a study conducted by Jacqueline Mosomi, what came out is that women at the lower ends of the pay-scale had their gender pay gap closed considerably – mostly because of the minimum wage,” she said.
“But even in terms of that, the reality is that domestic workers – as women – earn the lowest hourly rates.
Women in the middle of the pay-scale are the ones that really have not experienced a close in the wage gap. There’s still roughly a 25-30% difference between men and women.
More recently, the pay gap has actually started widening for women in the top income brackets.”
“Women remain the overall lowest earners in the country, as a grouping.”
Providing her explanation of why the pay gap exists between men and women, Professor Bosch highlighted some key challenges women face.
“For women at the lowest end of the pay distribution, usually it has to do with access to education…But women actually supersede men – with higher education in all fields. There are more women graduating than men.”
“Women in the lower end of the pay distribution often fall pregnant and there’s gender-based violence that can stop them from living their full lives. Furthermore, opportunities to find jobs are less than those for men. When they [women] enter into work, the type of work that is given is often related to ‘care’ and we don’t put as high a value on care work as we do on operating machines – yet we know it’s essential for us as human beings to flourish. Care work – such as teaching and nursing – is very undervalued.”
Professor Bosch highlighted the strengths of women in the workplace by contrasting them with men, saying that women are “more meticulous” and focused. She also stressed the need for parents to encourage their daughters to study the disciplines of mathematics and science.
“Women are said to be much more meticulous in the way in which they work and much more focused. So, for those reasons, there’s a great opportunity for women to start earning more. Parents also must be cognizant that they need to encourage their kids to do maths and science. Maths and science are essential for the fourth industrial revolution.”
The suggestion that women are more meticulous and focused in the workplace, however, comes contrary to statements made by clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Dr Jordan B. Peterson.
In an interview with English Journalist, Cathy Newman, Dr Peterson explained that the data on the average IQ for women and men is near identical and that similarly there’s no significant difference between the level of conscientiousness between men and women.
He also added that while women are slightly more orderly, men are slightly more industrious than their female counterparts.
Dr. Peterson also explained that there are several other factors that contribute to the gender pay gap, many of which are related to psychology and other social factors – not merely economic or educational factors.
While the pay gap, therefore, does exist, the issue cannot be adequately analysed by looking at it through one lens.