Women graduating from university in developed markets in 2020 could be the first generation to close the gender pay gap in their professional lifetimes, according to new research from Accenture that covers South Africa and other countries.
The report, “Getting to Equal 2017”, reveals that, within decades, the pay gap could close if women take advantage of three career equalisers and if business, government and academia provide critical support.
With these changes, the pay gap in developed markets could close by 2044, shortening the time to pay parity by 36 years. In developing markets, the changes could cut more than 100 years off the time to reach pay parity, achieving it by 2066. In South Africa it could be achieved by 2041, closing the gap at a faster rate than developing markets and shortening the time to pay parity by 52 years.
“The future workforce must be an equal workforce. The gender pay gap is an economic and competitive imperative that matters to everyone, and we must all take action to create significant opportunities for women and close the gap more quickly,” said Gale Shabangu, inclusion and diversity lead at Accenture in South Africa.
Accenture’s research found that, globally, a woman earns an average $100 for every $140 a man earns. Adding to this imbalance is the fact that women are much less likely than men to have paid work (50% and 76%, respectively). This contributes to a “hidden pay gap” that increases the economic inequities between men and women: for every $100 a woman earns, a man earns $258, the research shows while for South Africa this translates to: for every $100 a woman earns, a man earns $191.
The research also identifies several critical factors that affect a woman’s ability to achieve equal pay as early as university. Female undergraduates are currently less likely than their male counterparts to choose an area of study that they believe offers high earning potential (31% versus 39% for South Africa) or aspire to senior leadership positions (53% versus 64% locally). Additionally, only 53% of young women (versus 71% of men) in South Africa adopt new technologies quickly and are also much slower in taking up coding and computing courses.
The report, which builds on Accenture’s 2016 research on closing the gender gap in the work place, offers three powerful accelerators to help women close the pay gap:
* Digital fluency – the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work;
Career strategy – the need for women to aim high, make informed choices, and manage their careers proactively; and
Tech immersion – the opportunity to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men.
Applying these career accelerators, combined with support from business, government and academia, could boost women’s income by 2030 by $3,9-trillion globally and $47,2-billion in South Africa enabling the country to reach parity in 2041
“Gender equality is an essential element of an inclusive workplace, and this extends to pay,” says Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and CEO. “Business, government and academia all have an important role to play in closing the gap. Collaboration among these organisations is key to providing the right opportunities, environments and role models to lead the way for change.”