International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to reflect on the status of women and this year there were some positive developments to celebrate, including the appointment of women to more key leadership positions.
Christine Kangaloo will be officially sworn in as President at an inauguration ceremony on March 20. She is only the second woman to ascend to the country’s highest office.
There was also the history-making appointment of Erla Harewood-Christopher, the first woman to be appointed Police Commissioner in T&T.
These appointments should be an indicator that barriers to the professional advancement of women here are coming down, but that goal has not yet been fully realised.
In an interview for IWD, Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie highlighted some of the positive developments for T&T women in the workplace, including increasing numbers of women in key executive positions.
The Minister shared the results of an InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) survey which shows T&T is well ahead of other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of the number of women in management positions.
In addition, T&T women now surpass men in obtaining advanced degrees. This is in keeping with a longstanding trend of women and girls outpacing males academically.
This year, a girls’ school got the largest number of national scholarships from the Ministry of Education—a performance that is matched at other levels in the school system.
Unfortunately, this is not yet bringing about equality of treatment in the labour market. Casting a dark shadow over these remarkable accomplishments by T&T’s women is the huge gender pay gap that still exists.
Minister McClashie described the situation as “far from equitable.” In too many workplaces, he said, women don’t receive equitable pay for doing the same job as men.
This inequality in remuneration for men and women for work of equal value is not unique to this country. International Labour Organisation (ILO) data shows that globally, women earn on average just 68 per cent of what men are paid for the same work.
The ILO says if this current trend prevails, it will take more than 70 years for the gender wage gap to be closed completely. The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse, widening the gap by five per cent.
All is not lost, however. T&T can buck the global trend and begin implementing programmes and policies that promote the proper valuation of women’s work in the public and private sectors.
It should not be that difficult to continue the momentum created by the large numbers of women who have narrowed the gap in terms of education and experience.
Filling the remuneration gap will require more enlightened approaches, with critical roles to be played not only by the state but employers and trade unions as well.
With so many women in leadership roles within companies, there is an opportunity to influence corporate culture and decision-making in a way that eradicates salary discrepancies based on gender.
Hopefully, by this time next year, T&T could be well on the way to rooting out the discriminatory employment practices that place women at a disadvantage.
Erasing the gender pay gap will yield positive dividends, not only for women but for the wider T&T society.