Gender pay gap is a glaring symbol of the ongoing struggle for gender equality. It persists across industries, borders, and generations and no country in the world has been able to successfully close it. The UN Women (2023) report ‘Why Women Earn Less?’ finds that women earn 21% less than men in the East and Southern Africa region, with substantial variations across countries. In fact, the gap exists even after accounting for the average differences in women and men’s education, seniority and work experience, and type of job. This leads to lifetime income inequality between women and men, and further contributes to women’s poverty.
A myriad of reasons explains why women earn less than men. Women have historically been clustered into lower-paying fields, such as caregiving, education, and service industries, while men have dominated higher-paying sectors like technology and finance. Women also have less opportunities for access to leadership positions and opportunities for career advancement. Discrimination, both overt and subtle, plays a critical role in the gender pay gap in the region. Deeply ingrained cultural norms and gender stereotypes underpin the pay gap. These norms can shape educational choices, career aspirations, and workplace behaviour, often reinforcing gender-based wage disparities.
Closing the gap empowers women, stimulates economic growth, and drives social progress. Importantly, achieving pay equity is not just a matter of economic fairness but a reflection of our commitment to a just and equal society. The findings of this report aim to guide a wide variety of stakeholders in understanding and addressing the pay gap.
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