Tackling the Gender Pay Gap with Digital Solutions – Highlights

06 Oct 2020

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and more specifically SDG 5 and 8.5 aim at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030. Ensuring equal pay for work of equal value is a key component of these and thus part of every country’s international commitment.

The specific issue of the gender pay gap remains a global challenge. While the gap has been declining in most regions, lately an increase has been observed in several countries. Consequently, pay equality is still far from being a reality: worldwide, women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. In other words, women still earn over 20 percent less than men.

The purpose of this 3rd Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) webinar, organized by the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality (FOGE) on 19 August 2020, was to highlight the key role digital tools play in assisting employers to conduct equal pay analyses within their company or organization. The speakers included the following experts: Mr. Patric Aeberhard, pay equality expert (FOGE), Ms. Rosalia Vasquez, Econometrician and Wage Specialist (ILO), Mr. Marc Pieren, Expert – Equal Pay, Comp-On and Mr. Willem Adema,Senior Economist (OECD). More than 220 participants from 50 countries – from Argentina  to Japan – and representing over 80 organizations took part in this webinar. A Youtube video of the webinar can be accessed here.

As the moderator, Ms. Sylvie Durrer, Director of the FOGE and Chair of the EPIC Committee, emphasized, in times of crisis “there is a great risk that equal pay and thus gender equality is put aside”. In fact, the current global pandemic has disproportionately affected women, thereby creating a risk that work-related gender inequalities will be exacerbated. With this in mind, one thing is certain: more than ever, we need to encourage employer commitment by providing them with solid support through pay equity plans as well as digital, easy-to-use and free of charge analytical tools.

Over the past years, governments have responded to pay inequality with various means including new legislation and policy measures. For example, as noted by Sylvie Durrer, “in Switzerland, since July this year, employers with at least 100 employees are obliged to analyze their equal pay practice, to have the analysis verified by an independent body and to inform their employees and shareholders about the results”.

At the center of this webinar was a live and “step by step” demonstration of the tool Logib. This allowed the participants to get practical information on the applicability of the tool. Patric Aeberhard’s presentation showed how Logib can quickly provide precise information on the average salary and average bonuses of women compared to those of men. Logib also indicates the number of women in the different quartiles of a company and generates easy to read and ready-to-use reports. Aside from the simplicity of the tool, the fact that it can be used worldwide for both public and private employers ensures that any employer of a certain size can easily meet its obligation to equal pay. Equally important, the method on which Logib is based (variables used and statistical method) is scientifically and legally recognized. According to a Swiss survey, half of all employers that have conducted an analysis using Logib subsequently adapted their wages to ensure equal pay among their employees.

Marc Pieren highlighted some key challenges associated with equal pay analysis. He stressed that while the tool itself is user friendly, the trickiest phase of the process, at least for some companies, remained data collection. At the initial stage, some companies must put sufficient efforts into preparing the data required. When speaking about encouraging companies to make a sound analysis of their pay practice, Marc Pieren underlined that “the younger generation is very sensitive regarding these questions”.

For Rosalia Vasquez, the overall gender pay gap can be linked with the issue of the gender pay gap “within the companies themselves, especially in small and medium size companies”. In her opinion, it is thus crucial to understand and measure the gender pay gap “at the company level”.She also pointed out that conducting equal pay analysis “brings knowledge and transparency”, which has proved to be a key element in reducing the gender pay gap.

While discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosalia Vasquez warned that the ongoing health crisis would turn into a longer term economic crisis. So far, the majority of the job losses concerned jobs held by women. This could further increase inequalities, which would be difficult to counter when economies around the world will be in a recession. Regarding digital tools, Rosalia Vasquez noted that all of them tend to measure the same indicators such as skills, responsibility or the working environment. The advantage of Logib is its simplicity, which allows small and middle size companies that do not necessarily have large HR resources also to conduct gender pay analyses.

Willem Adema stressed that “the gender pay gap has been incredibly difficult to close”. According to him, many policies and anti-discrimination laws in the OECD countries, which stipulate equality, “do not seem to be sufficient”. When speaking about the ongoing crisis, he noted that “the COVID-19 pandemic has put extra pressure and burden on women in terms of unpaid care work” and “that it has not helped the already slow progress in reducing the gender pay gap”.

This year, both the ILO and the OECD and will undertake studies to address the gender pay gap.

In her concluding remarks, Sylvie Durrer recalled that “gender equality is not an option, but a must be, even in times of crisis”. She drew participants’ attention to the first “International Equal Pay Day”, which was adopted by the UN last year and will be celebrated for the first time on 18 September 2020 all around the world, from Tbilisi to New York.