December 3, 2020

COVID-19, one more factor in the wage gap




On September 18, the International Day for Equal Pay was celebrated for the first time. The UN marked this date on the calendar in order to raise awareness about the difference between what men and women charge. Today, women’s wages are 23% lower than men’s, which means that it would take 275 years to end the wage gap on the planet. In Spain, according to the latest data published by the INE in 2018, the gap stands at 21.4%. What This 2020 has been chosen as the starting point for this onomastics is significant, since the delicate balance between life and work in which the Covid-19 has placed women endangers the progress achieved to date.

The woman has been the great victim of the State of Alarm. First, because the confinement has had a full impact on the sectors of activity in which women have a greater presence. And, secondly, because they have mostly assumed the “extra” burden of caring for the home and family as a consequence of the closure of schools and the difficulty in outsourcing domestic and personal care services. It is estimated that, in the toughest moments of the health emergency, women have extended the time they dedicate to this type of task by more than 13 hours per week on average. This trend has been prolonged in the so-called “new normal”, in which the responsibility for care falls once again on the homes and, mainly, on women, with the impact it has on their employment situation. If before the pandemic 57% of Spanish women acknowledged having to quit a job because it was not compatible with their motherhood, according to the IESE study “Motherhood and professional career”, the current situation predicts an exponential increase in these figures. For example, a button: the study “Women in the workplace 2020”, McKinsey, estimates at two million women who would be considering this possibility only in the United States. And everything indicates that the same path will be followed in Spain.

“Every effort will be insufficient if cultural and educational stereotypes are not overcome”

Covid-19 has shown that we are still far from co-responsibility education and that gender roles continue to dominate the family sphere. It is, without a doubt, the legacy of an education based on gender-related prejudices, which limits what women are supposed to do and study. At this point, the figures are illustrative. Today only 28% of students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers in Spain are women and 92.4% of the reductions in working hours for caring for minors and other family obligations are requested by workers who are possibly “forced” by circumstances.

The moment “urges” to action. It is true that the governments have promoted initiatives to try to contain this situation and avoid taking a step back in everything achieved. In Spain, the approval of Royal Decree 902/2020, of October 13, on equal pay between women and men is noteworthy. But the truth is that any effort will be insufficient if cultural and educational stereotypes that condition the professional development of women from childhood are not overcome. From the business world, the challenge is maximum. It is necessary to discontinue leadership models of the past based on presentism and end the segregation of positions by gender that, today, reduces the presence of women in management and middle management positions to 28% in Spain, as is as stated in the report “The presence of women in executive positions.”

This means standardizing the evaluation of performance by objectives, betting on real reconciliation measures for men and women or equalizing the options for access to senior management positions, among other measures.

This is the way. At HP, we have been making decisions that promote the presence of women at all levels of the organization for 80 years. Today this group represents a very important percentage of the executive committee of HP and our interest is to continue increasing its weight. We want to continue breaking glass ceilings and provide real references that end the collective beliefs that weigh down female employability and their presence in positions of responsibility and that are inspiring for the next generations.

Helena Herrero is President and CEO of HP for Southern Europe

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