Happy Women's Day! Now let's talk about gender pay gap

Today is Women’s Day (2017). So Happy Women’s day. Now I would not wax poetic about the importance of women in our lives in all the forms and how we all should be thankful. I could, but I don’t think I’d have anything new to say which hasn’t already been said, so I won’t. Instead, I would want to discuss a topic, an issue, which I feel needs a lot more discussion and I think I can contribute to it. Lets discuss the gender pay gap. According to the Monster Salary Index (MSI) on gender for 2016, women in India earn 25% less than men. The number is huge yet totally believable. Now instead of looking at it from the gender angle, let’s try and look at it from a pure capitalist angle. The relationship between an employee and an employer is a very special form of buyer-seller relationship. The specialty in this relationship is that the employer and the employee keep interchanging the roles of the buyer and the seller. The employee is the buyer in the case where he “buys” a job and compensation from an employer in return for his work and the employer is the buyer in the conventional way where he buys his employees work in exchange for compensation and perks. All buyer-seller relations are about negotiations and bargains. From a capitalistic point of view, a person will want to pay as little as possible for something he wants to buy. If multiple sellers are offering the exact same product, it’s only logical to go with the one with whom you can negotiate the least possible price. This is all economics. This is exactly what is happening with women when it comes to the wage gap. They are, in most certainty, being out negotiated into accepting lower pay. The usual bargaining chips that most employers use for such negotiations are

  1. Most women might not want to travel far from home.
  2. Most women might quit or be on long leaves for marriage and maternity
  3. Most women are not ok with working long or extra hours or hard enough and similar reasons.

Now I am keeping the trueness, ridiculousness or whatever adjective that is coming to your mind aside when I am stating these reasons. I am just stating the reasons that can and even are brought up during such negotiations. There could be many more reasons which might be even much more “regressive” and are never said out loud so let’s keep then aside. If a prospective employer can use any or all of these bargaining chips you can safely assume that he will use this. This is not a question of morality or doing the right thing. It’s pure business. At my own firm I have various employees who work more or less the same kind of work but are paid differently and that is just because of what I could negotiate with them. I, from my perspective, would like to pay them even less as long as they keep working happily at a lesser pay ( a man can dream). Now that I have stated what I feel is the problem what can women do to get around it and make it work for them. I feel this is what women can do.

  1. Acknowledge the fact that this is all a business transaction and a negotiation and a negotiation is a two-way activity. If the employer has and is using some bargaining chips for his favor unless you acknowledge what’s happening, get into the nitty-gritty of it, you will be stuck at the “this is happening because I am a woman” stage.
  2. Negotiate back - You won’t get until you ask. Always know what you deserve, what you want and what you are willing to settle that. Until you know these numbers you will have to rely only on whatever offer comes your way without having any comparative thoughts. If you are not being offered what you had in mind ask for it. Remember negotiation. If you can ask a shopkeeper for a discount you can ask for this as well. Take your next steps based on what response you get. But always ask. This is true for both the times - getting hired and getting a raise.
  3. Be prepared to walk away (relevant mostly when getting hired) - Don’t settle. Never settle. Remember the buyer-seller thing mentioned above. The employer needs you too. If you think you are being discriminated against at the time of hiring let go of the offer and wait for a better one.
  4. Escalate - If you feel that your employer is actually discriminating against you and you can prove it then raise your voice. If you can certifiably prove that you are being paid less that what your male counterpart who is doing the same job as you then make a fuss about it. Sue your employer if need be. But make noise.

The whole point that I am trying to make here is that maybe we need to shift our perspective about gender wage gap from a sexist issue to a business issue to solve it. It could work if we give it a try. I plan to make a video about this on my youtube channel about it (I might already have by the time you read this. Why not visit there and check it out? Link : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfw-jOm6_vKNcqMIQk-7b0A)

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I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex