Women earn on average just 77 percent of what men earn, the United Nations labor organization said Friday, noting that “without targeted action, pay equity between women and men will not be achieved before 2086, or at least 71 years from now.”
“Are working women better off today than they were 20 years ago?” asked Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder in a press release ahead of Sunday’s International Women’s Day, marked annually on March 8.
“The answer is a qualified yes. Has this progress met our expectations? The answer is a decidedly no. We need to be innovative, to reframe the debate and to intensify the focus on ensuring the rights of women at work,” he declared.
While guaranteed access to paid maternity leave has improved – the percentage of countries offering 14 weeks or more maternity leave has increased from 38 percent to 51 percent – more than 800 million women workers globally still do not have adequate maternity protection. That’s 41 percent of the female workforce worldwide. (According to a 2014 report by the ILO, the U.S. is one of only three countries to offer no paid maternity leave whatsoever, along with Oman and Papua New Guinea.)
Progress in implementing the Declaration and Platform for Action — a massive blueprint for gender equality adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 — has been mixed, the ILO said in a briefing note, on the heels of also releasing a new report that found that “the motherhood pay gap imposes a wage penalty often over and above the wage gap already experienced by women worldwide.”
According to “The Motherhood Pay Gap: A Review of the Issues, Theory and International Evidence,” mothers earn less than women without children, even when all other factors are equal. Despite policy and international labor standard adjustments, women continue to experience widespread discrimination and inequality in the workplace, the report found.
“The overriding conclusion 20 years on from Beijing is that despite marginal progress we have years, even decades to go until women enjoy the same rights and benefits at work,” said Shauna Olney, Chief of the Gender and Equality and Diversity Brand of the ILO.
In developed countries, the wage gap increases when a woman has more than one child. In developing countries, however, girls and young woman are more like than their male counterparts to be kept at home to help with household and caring tasks. And across both poor and rich nations, violence against women remains a major factor undermining their access to decent work, the report said, noting that more than a third of women worldwide have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence.
“In most parts of the world, women are often in undervalued and low-paid jobs; lack access to education, training, recruitment; have limited bargaining and decision-making power; and still shoulder responsibility for most unpaid care work,” said the ILO briefing.
One sign of progress is that more countries are recognizing men’s care responsibilities – the number of countries providing some type of paternity leave has doubled from 38 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 2013.
But despite this, “women continue to shoulder most of the responsibility for family care, often limiting their access to paid employment completely, or confining them to part-time positions, which are typically not as well paid,” the ILO said.
Today, women own and manage over 30 percent of all businesses but tend to be concentrated in small enterprises. On a more macro level, women sit on 19 percent of board seats globally, and hold only five percent of CEO positions at the world’s largest companies.