Gender equality in this spurred pandemic is still distant fairy tale

When Brett Emery called her supervisors for help, complaining that her male colleague earned almost the same as her salary even though they are newcomers to the laboratory, they told her they couldn’t help. They said her situation was “common practice.”

Brett is just one of the thousands of working women in Germany and around the world who have suffered from the expanding gender pay gap as they are more likely to be furloughed without salary and to be sacrificed for the family during covid-19 pandemic.

Female chemical engineer develops clean energy storage solutions Photo: Unsplash @thisisengineering

“There’s a certain pay gap because I found out where my male colleagues who’ve just begun and their salary is the same as mine, even though I’ve got that salary for three years. I think I deserve another fair way and I discussed with my professors appealing that case but just received the answer which said they felt sorry for this but can do a little because this is the convention of our laboratory and also across the whole Germany”, said Brett Emery, a female PhD candidate in Technische Universität Dresden.

Around the world, the chance of women experiencing the gender wage gap has dramatically gone up, as more females are employed in the catering, retailing, tourism, leisure sectors etc, which have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, as a result, women were more likely to be unemployed than men in these industries. Plus, people spent more time at home due to anti-COVID measures such as lockdown and curfew, and traditional gender division of labour has led to women contributing heavily to these unpaid care work including household chores and looking after the elderly and young children.

Overview of gender pay gap statistics in EU Source: eurostat

As the fourth-largest economy in the world with strong influence on other European countries, which is led by a female Chancellor and implemented the first national strategy for gender equality in 2020. However, Germany has one of the biggest gender pay gaps in Europe with women made 19% less in wages than men in 2019, also higher than the EU average.

“Women must finally be able to earn as much as men,” Angela Merkel said in a Women’s Day podcast on 8th, March. According to the Federal Employment Agency of Germany, “women recently earned over 440 euros a month less than men on average. The coronavirus pandemic has hit women even harder than men in some cases on the job market.”

On Women’s Day: Merkel warns about old role patterns

“When I was back to work after summer last year, I got a 50% pay cut while my male colleagues’ wages were just down around 20%. And my manager told me as  a compensation I have more approved leave applications to take care of my children. I felt sad and angry, you know, you can be a good woman as you have children but also work, there’s no excuse to treat me unfairly,” said Jette Luinstra, who works in 50Hertz, an operation of the electricity transmission system in the north and east of Germany.

Our society still faces a persistent gender pay gap in the workplace even though global feminist movement has been going on for several years. This phenomenon nearly all over the world, women do the same work at the same position as their male peers do, but they are generally paid less simply because they are female.

Nonetheless, there is a glimmer of hope for us in the current gloomy picture. Germany has come into effect das Gesetz zur Förderung der Transparenz von Entgeltstrukturen (Transparency in Wage Structures Act) in 2017, which provides a clear legal basis for the principle of equal pay.

Breaking stereotypes Photo: Unsplash @marianajm

In addition, “to address the unequal pay the Commission launches today a public consultation on pay transparency and will table binding measures by the end of 2020,” according to Gender Equality Strategy: Striving for a Union of equality from European Commission.

To overcome the gender pay gap and promote gender equality, it needs joint efforts of the whole society, such as claiming salary transparency, offering help to women entrepreneurship, subsidising childcare support and encouraging men to take parental leave.

This is the third year that Andrea Hooijmans has been active in campaigns for bridging gender pay. She said“We can’t ever let down our guard against this devastating consequence along with the pandemic. I always see myself as a feminist fighter, I’ll continue to do my part to help and support women in a heartbeat. We do need  pay equity in the workplace!”

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