It’s no secret that even in this day and age, women’s salaries still lag behind men. On average, women around the world earn up to 23% less than men, according to figures by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
They are also about 70% less likely than men to be in the labour workforce. In South Asia, among the small numbers of women who do work, only 15% are waged and salaried workers, the UNDP say.
Even in developed nations like Singapore, where female resident labour force participation stood at roughly 60% in 2012, the gender gap remains evident.
For instance, while women make up some 15% of chief executives in the city-state (the highest in Asia and third highest in the world), they make up just over 8% of boards.
More alarmingly, women are paid at least 10% less than men for doing the same job in most sectors, a study from the Ministry of Manpower suggests.
Together with the UNDP, popular actress Michelle Yeoh is now working to smash the age-old gender pay gap.
At a Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development here last week, the award-winning actress, who is UNDP’s Goodwill Ambassador had called upon governments and businesses in Asia and the Pacific to strive for gender equality in the workplace.
At the forum, the UNDP introduced the Gender Seal Certification Programme in the Asia-Pacific region to assist companies in these six areas:
- Women in decision-making positions. Practical experiences and lessons learnt from companies on how to increase women in decision-making posts, strategies for career development and mentorships and establishing gender equality goals to correct imbalances in decision-making positions.
- Detecting and eliminating gender-based pay gaps. Review of practical examples in identifying and solving wage gaps between men and women.
- Policies to improve work-life balance. Experiences in promoting flexi-time, tele-commuting, paternity leave and other policies allowing men and women to more fairly and efficiently balance their work and family responsibilities.
- Women in all company sectors. Experiences regarding the insertion of women into occupational areas that are traditionally male-dominated.
- Inclusive and non-sexist communication inside and outside the company.
- Promoting zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the work-place.
“Inequality abounds in schools, workplaces, in government and beyond, and that is why we need the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme for Public and Private Enterprises,” said Yeoh at the event.
“If we do not capture the energy and creativity of women we cannot achieve the full potential of our economies and societies.”
Promoting economic empowerment of women
Since 2010, UNDP has supported the development and implementation of the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme in 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Over 1400 private and public enterprises have been participating in the project, 419 of which have received certification by national authorities.
The introduction of the programme in the Asia-Pacific region is aimed at dealing with the various challenges of gender equality in the region. Currently, about 11 % of companies have no women at senior management levels and 26 % have no women on their boards.
“The private sector can make a critical contribution to eradicate gender inequalities and drive sustainable development,” said Raquel Lagunas, UNDP’s Senior Advisor on Gender Mainstreaming.
“By implementing gender equality standards within their own companies, the private sector can ensure equal opportunities for women, create inclusive work environments and help achieve Sustainable Development Goals focused on gender equality, decent work and economic growth and reduce inequalities,” Lagunas added.
According to Lagunas, the programme will help governments improve legislation and develop national policies on gender at the workplace.
UNDP expects that the programme will help companies increase productivity, improve workers’ engagement, bring about greater efficiency and staff performance, reduce absenteeism, and enhance the public image of the private sector.
The key objective is to increase economic empowerment of women.