A Prologue to Pay Equality – No quick fix to untangle intersectional inequality

20 Jul 2020

By Megan O’Donnell (Center for Global Development), Ania Calderon (Open Data Charter) and Callie Strickland (The B Team)

With an estimated 250+ years until the world reaches economic gender parity, gender pay gaps have proven tough to close. As these gaps are symptoms of broader structural inequalities, they cannot be addressed in isolation or with quick fixes.

As a starting point for action, the Center for Global Development, the Open Data Charter, and The B Team, within the framework of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), recently co-hosted the first in a series of webinars focused on evidence-based solutions to address persistent gender gaps in economic opportunity and pay. Government leaders, as well as representatives from the private sector and labor unions, gathered to discuss actions they are taking and provided reactions to a draft policy memo outlining key solutions for governments and businesses to champion.

The following questions and reflections were shared during the webinar:

How do we break out of the echo chamber and better engage men in the fight for gender equality?

Men still hold the majority of decision making positions as CEOs, heads of government, and senior managers that will need to be engaged in order to advance women’s economic opportunity and equal pay. Men need to be brought along the journey and reassured that closing gender pay gaps will not only benefit women, but will also bolster business performance and strengthen the global economy. While there is a need for more data, there is evidence that inequality leads to lower levels of perceived fairness and trust that equality can lead to social cohesion.

How can we ensure an intersectional lens to solving the challenge of gender pay gaps?

Despite ample evidence of racial pay gaps (Black women in the U.S. earn $0.75 for every $0.81 earned by white women and $1.00 earned by white men), race is often ignored in gender pay gap discussions and disclosures which prevents meaningful progress towards pay equality for all people. Governments and businesses must consider and measure the impact of race and ethnicity (among other identity markers) when working to address and permanently close pay gaps.

Where do we need to strengthen the evidence base?

As is true with any challenge – “what gets measured gets done”. A critical starting point for addressing pay gaps is to track and monitor pay differentials. Data must account for the diversity of the workforce. Webinar participants agreed that there is a need to understand implicit drivers of pay gaps and approach inequality with an intersectional view that includes race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic background and more. It was also raised the causal linkages between pay data transparency and the narrowing of pay gaps that actually benefit women.

How do we comprehensively tackle underlying challenges?

As mentioned above, pay gaps are symptoms of broader structural inequalities. Quick fixes will not ensure lasting change . Compliance of 173 countries that have ratified the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No.100) is a start, but this requires further actions to change cultures and established practice, such as making use of the ILO supervisory system, and others from international bodies such as UN Treaties monitoring bodies and Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

If you haven’t been able to attend the webinar, you may find the recording here.

Achieving pay equality will require a meaningful commitment and collective action between government, business, labour unions and civil society. We believe that these conversations are a starting point, yet know there is much more work to be done.

If you are interested in working together to close gender pay gaps, please reach out to info@opendatacharter.org. We will soon publish our Advancing policy solutions to close gender pay gaps memo. At the Open Data Charter, as a proud member, we encourage you to join EPIC, the only multi-stakeholder initiative with the goal to achieve equal pay for women and men everywhere. To find out more please visit the website.