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19 January 2016

What will the WEF say about the gender pay gap?

Davos 2016
With the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos later this week for the 46th Annual Meeting, the WEF agenda features a number of reports and sessions on women’s contribution to the world economy. Central to this part of the agenda is the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index 2015, which ranks 145 economies according to how well they are leveraging their female talent pool, based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. With a decade of data now available, this edition of the Global Gender Gap Report – first published in 2006 – shows that while the world has made progress overall, stubborn inequalities remain.

The UK
The rankings are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps. The UK ranks 18th, but only 62nd on wage equality for similar work.

The economic case for gender parity
The Report argues that a nation’s competitiveness depends, among other things, on whether and how it educates and utilizes its female talent and points to ample evidence from the last decade of policy levers and business practices that have been effective in closing economic gender gaps. The Report says that, given the widespread benefits of increased gender parity, the short term costs and trade-offs associated with such practices should be viewed as a long-term investment.

Good equal pay practice
In terms of best business practice, the report suggests six dimensions around which to focus an organization’s gender parity efforts. These could equally well be applied to the gender pay gap:
  • Leadership and company commitment
  • Measurement and target setting. Here the Report says “Developing a disaggregated database can help to evaluate the causes of gender imbalances and track progress. Transparent salary bands to track and address male and female salary gaps are additional useful tools to understand the status quo in organizations.”
  • Awareness and accountability
  • Work environment and work- life balance
  • Responsibility beyond the office, which the Report defines as exercising external influence along the value chain.

18 per cent of Davos participants this year are women, up from 17 per cent last year, but still nowhere near enough.

The theme of this year’s meeting, Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, reflects the way digitisation is upending the way we live and work. 

The WEF website suggests that if you’re interested in gender issues, you can follow the livestream of Davos sessions including a briefing, “The Gender Impactof the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, on Thursday January 21 at 10.00am CET, and a debate on "Progress towards Parity" on Friday 22 at 4pm CET.

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