Corporate board members and investors should exercise ‘responsible activism’ in addressing gender-based wage inequality in companies.
While South Africa is ranked 19th out of 149 countries on gender equality – according to the 2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Report – its rankings plunge to 117th on wage equality for similar work, and this has irked academic Anita Bosch.
“South Africa’s labour market has changed a little in the past decade – remaining more favourable to men, who are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race,” says Bosch, associate professor in organisational behaviour and leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
Bosch, who holds the research chair: Women at Work, argues that addressing the pay gap between men and women is “an important step towards income justice for South African women”.
Women’s lower level of education, says Bosch, is “often cited as a reason for lower pay” – despite South African women graduating at the same rate, “or better than men in higher-paid fields such as commerce, science, engineering and technology”.
“This renders the argument that women do not have the right types of qualifications null and void,” says Bosch.
In her latest research on the gender pay gap in the country, Bosch has implored corporate board members and investors to exercise “responsible activism” in addressing gender-based wage inequality in the companies they lead or invest in.
“As directors and shareholders, they have rights and responsibilities that can be used to positively influence organisations to take a stand against pay discrimination,” said Bosch. “Pay equality can be seen as a compliance issue, or it could be regarded as a focus on fairness and the basic right to equality, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution.”
Laws that could be invoked to address gender inequality, include the Employment Equity Act (EEA), which enforces the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.
EEA requires employers of more than 50 people to report on income differentials.
The King IV Codes on Corporate Governance stipulate that board directors should approve a remuneration policy and report on its implementation – as part of the annual report.
“These must demonstrate that the company remunerates fairly, responsibly and transparently,” she says.
While application of the King Codes is voluntary, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange listing requirements make some provisions mandatory, including the tabling of the remuneration policy and implementation report for a shareholder vote at the annual general meeting.
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