-by KParthasarathi Monday, October 08, 2007
We talk of gender equality but rarely practice it even in work area. When some construction work was taken up in my house I found the contractor paying to women workers seventy five percent of wages paid to men .When I asked him about the disparity ,he explained that this is the standard practice and that women cannot do hard job. What I actually observed was different in that the women workers were doing as much as or even more than the male workers. May be they cannot lift heavy weights but not all men are also strong except the few well built and able bodied.
The situation of pay gap is no different elsewhere as in retail stores, garment manufacturers, agricultural farms and such like .I have seen business houses prefer women for typists, call centre assistants and counter staff as they are willing to accept lower salary. Unlike in government, in private sector one never knows what each employee gets. There are no prescribed scales. Most women who are not highly skilled or educated seek employment to augment the family income and settle for whatever is paid by the employers. They have no negotiating strength. No doubt women prefer desk work than working in factories, engineering, construction, field work or those that involve heavy traveling where possibly the pay is higher and performance-based on the volume of business generated. It is likely a small percentage of women may also work for lesser hours to take care of the kids at home and agree for lesser emoluments. But all these cannot hide the gender discrimination in the remuneration.
If the discrimination is built in the system, where the women get paid less than men for the same job and same hours, it is wrong. There should be a system of checks. The governments should enact a law like Minimum Wages Act making equal pay for equivalent work mandatory even in private sector to do away with this discrimination.
I have seen in small offices or shop establishments the toilet and rest room facilities provided to women employees are not at par or adequate with those given for men. The reason could be that women employees still form a small percentage of the total employed. Things are changing with large number of women working in call centres and IT industry. The government has also a patronizing attitude towards women by abolishing night duties for women instead of upgrading the measures to ensure their security at work places. Instead of banning night duty and thereby curbing the scope for employment of women employees, the government could have made it optional for the women employees. This is a fit case for the women's organisations to take up against gender discrimination in work places. They should also and ponder over the fact why a large percentage of women have not raised to the executive levels leave alone top positions and board rooms despite their being no less qualified than men. . Is their glass ceiling preventing them to move up?
It is germane to remember that more than 50% of the students in class 12 are women and the top ranks are snatched away by them. Yet there is a sudden drop in the percentage at the higher levels education like engineering, medical, business schools and civil services. The reservation for women in legislatures that is yet to materialize would not address this serious malaise that afflicts the weaker gender.