Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Equal pay for equal work is one of the founding principles of the European Union. However. women across the continent still earn 14.1% less than their male counterparts for doing the same job, in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2021. Western Europe came out on top in terms of gender parity in the study, where it must be noted there were large differences across the continent. The fact that women are often unaware of the pay discriminations going on in their place of work, often means that they are not in a position to make a proper assessment or negotiate.
On May 5th 2021, the European Economic and Social Committee held a hearing to discuss new pay transparency measures, first proposed in March of this year. These measures would foster more pay information for job seekers, such as the pay levels of other workers doing the same job and prospective employers would not be able to ask about pay history when discussing salary expectations. Further, they would have to provide data upon request, including specific data on the gender pay gap within their company. Ursula von der Leyen was clear that these new measures are a direct response to closing the present differences in how men and women are paid.
The reasons for the gender pay gap are deep-rooted and complex, and transparency over salary is just one facet in addressing the issue. However, it is definitely an important initial step in creating a more equal workplace, by providing individuals with the information they need to advocate for themselves. Like any other legislation, should it be passed its effectiveness will be proven with the test of time.
So why be so secretive over pay?
Many of us are uncomfortable talking about money, and some don’t even disclose their salary to their closest friends and family. This general unease about discussions around salary is also felt in professional settings, where not everyone is sure when or how they should bring up conversations regarding salary during the interview process, or how to renegotiate their salary after they are hired. As with many things we feel uncomfortable about, sometimes its easier to just not bring it up or to make compromises that avoid uncomfortable situations or conflict.
For many their job is linked to their self-worth, feeling productive and like they’re providing for their families, as well as the feeling of success. These feelings are somewhat diminished when a number is attached to it and this contribution is quantified in terms of money. We all like to feel like we are valuable in how we contribute and learning that our colleagues make more money that we do, even if there are valid reasons, could affect how we perform, overall job satisfaction and how we interact with those we work with. Employers choose not to readily volunteer this information and employees don’t discuss what they are each being paid.