The narrowest perception of gender equality in the workplace is about payment. Pay women and men the same wage for the same type of job, unfortunately, does not solve the fundamental issue of gender inequality. This because pay inequality is the outcome of persistent gender norms that put women in a disadvantaged position instead of the root cause of the problem itself.
The gender pay gap issue is rooted in the normative concept of women’s complementary position in society compared to men. Generally, society perceives women’s primary responsibility is at home, as homemakers and caregivers. This traditional role does not automatically subside when they enter the paid work sphere as women’s income is seen as complementary to men’s breadwinner’s income.
In this modern time, women and men are equally valued based on their competence or merit; some might argue. Also, employers could not pay women lesser pay than their men counterparts if the statutory minimum wage applies. These arguments, although logical, could not fully answer fundamental questions about the persistent pay inequality.
Many global studies show that in a situation where women’s education participation rate is higher than men’s, the gender pay gap still exists. In Indonesia, for instance, even when the education participation of women is higher than men, Indonesian women earn around 30% less than similarly qualified men. Further, studies show that women with primary education receive about 43 percent less than men. Women with junior or high school diplomas receive about 26 percent and 25 percent, respectively, lesser than men. Women and men in these groups of education earn at least the minimum wage; thus, the gender pays gap likely apparent.
To further elaborate on the stubborn gender pay gap issue, Indonesian women’s average earning is still 16 percent less than men’s even when they hold a postgraduate diploma.
So what is the real issue of the gender pay gap? Is it because of socially construed norms of gender roles? Are persistent gender roles only about the operational side of family responsibility? Is it about societal pressures that distort women’s perception of their monetary value and rights in the paid work realm?
In practice, the above questions are likely unanswered once an organization applies an equal pay policy. However, implementation of organizational pay equality unlikely suffices to redress the underlying issue. I argue that if organizations did not strategically identify the root cause of gender inequality in their organization, they could not systematically resolve it. As such, there would always be inequality of pay in the paid work sphere.