Dashiki | Stop penalising women for being women

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"I have learnt over the years that a male child needs both parents to nurture and take care of him."
"I have learnt over the years that a male child needs both parents to nurture and take care of him."


It wasn’t until I started adulting and had to foot my own bills that I realised how many sacrifices our parents made while raising us, especially our single mothers.

What makes this close to miraculous is how our mothers somehow make the rand stretch to cater for almost all our daily needs – and even Christmas presents and clothes.

Many women have, for the longest time, had to carry the burden of taking care of the household with limited financial resources. This is despite studies showing that women drive more consumer purchasing decisions.

READ: Single mothers can’t save for the future, get little support from fathers

Even though society has come far in empowering women through education, widening career options and – dare I say, reluctantly so – offering seats in corporate boardrooms and upper political echelons, women are still short-changed in their remuneration.

Why, in 2022, are we still making noise about bridging the gender pay gap? Why are we still asking about and not actioning investing in women by paying them competitive salaries?

In 2019, at a World Economic Forum presentation, US economist Laura Tyson offered several reasons for this, including that, often, women globally choose jobs differently from men. These jobs, which pay less, include teaching and administration.

However, she added that there were gender biases in companies, which often entrench a culture of paying women less. She also singled out parenthood as the moment the pay gap widens, with mothers taking a penalty.

In an ideal world, closing the gender pay gap would entail equally sharing parental duties between men and women, but this is only a dream in the real world we live in, as, according to a 2018 Gallup World Poll, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of single mothers worldwide (32%), with South Africa having more than 40% of mothers single.

So, single mothers are as productive and available in the job market as the support they get from home allows. Another thorn in the flesh regarding wage gaps is the obstinate discrimination and stereotyping in earning and promotion opportunities for women, Tyson says.

In a world where many women work hard, even in male-dominated industries, to earn financial independence and equality, this ridiculous pay gap culture is still deep-seated. According to the United Association of SA, “women earn up to 35% less than men for doing work of equal value, yet nearly 38% of households are dependent on the income that a woman brings home”.

READ: Ways to empower women for financial independence

Last year, a gender and Covid-19 report by the World Bank showed that, in developing countries, job losses, financial insecurity and the rise in unpaid care may drive the increase in stress among women.

With the economy slowly wobbling to its feet and companies and the public sector starting to open up, organisations should stop penalising women for being women; stop making discount grocery coupons the only solution; and raise the pay scale to what the job title is worth – not the gender.

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