Will gender pay parity remain a pipe dream? Indian companies can do more to ensure equal pay for equal work

Several programmes have been adopted, on a policy basis, by India Inc to ensure a higher participation of women at the workplace. Yet, a recent survey by the Monster Salary Index (MSI) found there was a 20 percent gender pay gap in corporate India in 2017, with men raking in a median gross hourly salary of Rs 231 in comparison to women who earned Rs 184.80.

The MSI survey, however, offered a glimmer of hope -- in that the gender pay gap narrowed by some five percentage points from 2016, when it stood at 24.8 percent.

 Will gender pay parity remain a pipe dream? Indian companies can do more to ensure equal pay for equal work

Representational Image. Reuters

MSI data showed that the gender pay gap in India increased with work experience. Men with 0-2 years of experience earned a 7.8 percent higher median wage than women, while men with 6-10 years of experience earned 15.3 percent more. Men with 11 or more years of experience earned a 25 percent higher median wage than women. Interestingly, there is a marginally inverted pay gap in the experience group of 3-5 years, where women earn more than men.

So, what ails the women workforce in corporate India? Some of the reasons highlighted by women in the survey range from hardships faced with travel (41 percent), the attitude of clients/ distributors/ vendors/ colleagues (33 percent), to the societal perception of women who work long hours (32 percent).

Furthermore, some 32 percent of those polled said women were not easily considered for top management roles, 29 percent said women were not given responsibilities or promotions as per their calibre and 27 percent said they were getting paid less for the same amount of work.

One of the reasons for the continuance of a disparity in wages is the legacy issue, Kamal Karanth, co-founder, Xpheno, a staffing start-up, told Firstpost. If companies have hired women from a lower salary base, then the disparity is bound to continue.

Pay gaps are not deliberately created in the corporate world, Karanth said. He listed women dropping-off from the workforce as a primary reason.


A federal court in the United States recently ruled that women cannot be paid less than men for the same work using salary history as a reason, according to a CNN report.

Back home, in India, the Equal Remuneration Act (1976) provides equal pay to men and women for equal work. But despite the existence of such acts, women continue to be paid low. Breaking through the glass ceiling still remains the number one challenge for many women in India, said Shailendra Naidu, the CEO of mobile payment solutions firm Obopay. “In several industries, women workers are engaged in low productivity work and hence are being paid less. In many top companies it is seen that women are employed more in supporting roles than managerial roles. Even in the entertainment industry where women rights is a hot topic for most movie scripts it has been brought to the limelight that there exists a gender based pay gap,” Naidu told Firstpost.

Just 10 percent of all organisations in India have a robust programme to tackle gender diversity at the workplace, the MSI survey found. Concurring with the survey and other surveys on the issue, Dr Gayathri Vasudevan, co-founder & CEO, LabourNet Sevices, said statistics show that many organisations in India do not follow a gender-inclusive policy, especially the IT & communications and manufacturing sectors where the pay gap is the widest. This is largely due to the ‘mistrust’ on the part of the organisation pertaining to the stability of a female employee as compared to her male counterpart. “Owing to various societal obligations and bindings, a woman has to always be at the receiving end when it comes to establishing a balance between work and personal life. As a result, in order to break through the proverbial glass ceiling, although she might work harder than any man to keep up with all expectations, it becomes much tougher for her to prove her reliability and dependability to her superiors,” Vasudevan added.

A study by Nasscom has found that in the technology sector, women occupied just 26 percent of all engineering roles i.e. for one female engineer there are three male engineers. Bench-marking this against the average number of women (irrespective of the function) in tech companies, it found that the overall representation of women was 34 percent. Women transition to managerial roles after gaining over eight years of experience while men climb up the ladder in six years. The glass ceiling is no illusion, the study added.

“The disparity in numbers between men and women is perhaps nowhere more stark than in India’s IT workforce. There are parity issues that could play spoil sport. Take for instance the fact that women are often paid less than their male counterparts or that there are fewer women who occupy high posts in IT firms. While things are changing in terms of this understanding, the pace of acceptance is very slow and lots need to be evangelised around this message,” said Pradipto Chakrabarty, Regional Director, CompTIA, a not-for-profit trade association that issues professional certifications for the IT industry.

Road ahead

What should organisations do to overcome gender disparity in pay structures? In the MSI survey, a majority of all respondents (69 percent) suggested that gender parity be made a top priority for organisations. However, 68 percent of those surveyed said that even if gender parity is made a priority, the management will not 'walk the talk'. For starters, a 'little bit of effort and open mindedness' is all we need to ensure equality and parity at workplaces, said Parushni Aggarwal, Founder and Creative Director, Studio CREO.

However, it isn’t that India Inc is unaware of the problem. Chakrabarty of CompTIA pointed out that societal mindsets carried into the workspace must change. “As a society, we need to understand, accept and implement the belief that women are in no way less than men in knowledge, skill and abilities. Unfortunately, a large swath of our men are still seeped in the traditional outlook of gender equality. The future of technology will be bleak if we continue to think this way,” he added.

Women with equal experience and talent still lose out to men, surveys have shown in the past. To ensure equal opportunity and equal pay, women should be given access to skill-based jobs and should be given the power of decision-making. Companies need to actively restructure the way a candidate is evaluated for a job/raise/promotion and place zero weightage on gender as a criteria. Training programs that empower women to take on managerial roles is an area that every organisation should focus on.

Another suggestion is for Boards to appoint CEOs with a mandate to hire women in leadership roles. “HR should spend more time with leadership teams sensitising them on the pay gap effects and reward managers who are able to retain more women in their teams. It is important for organisations to hire/retain/promote women leaders, even out of turn, to create role models,” said Karanth of Xpheno.

Hopefully, things could change this year and the 2018 MSI survey might throw out better numbers as far as the gender pay gap goes.

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Updated Date: Apr 11, 2018 18:12:59 IST