Despite all the efforts by government and feminist movements, Botswana’s job market is still rigged against women, and it hits them where it hurts most- in their pocket.
A research paper by Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) – Male –Female wage differentials in Botswana, 2020 has revealed that “Gender disparities are still visible in the labor market. Even though there has been an increase in female labor force participation, the rate of increase has been lower than that of males. Since 2008, the percentage of women employed in the economy increased from 43% of the total workforce to 49% in 2016, and the labor force participation rate stood at 56% which is lower than that of males (67.8%). Moreover, women are found relatively more in clerical support services, elementary occupations but fewer in managerial or administrative decision making. In terms of wages, on average, males earn more than females in most of the sectors in Botswana. Females with education attainment lower than the post graduate level earn considerably less than males.”
It is however not all doom and gloom. The BIDPA study found that women with post graduate education earn 1.2 times more than males.”
Curiously, although government has been vocal in addressing gender discrimination, the government enclave and state-owned enterprises which are the biggest employers in the country pay men more than women while the private sector and NGOs pay women more than men.
States the BIDPA report: “Males in the public sector earn more than females and females in the private sector earn more than males. On the other hand, females in parastatals earn considerably less than males (67%), but females earn convincingly more than males in NGOs, three times as much on average.”
In another curious finding, while rural areas are perceived as bastions of gender inequality and cities believed to be more progressive, Batswana “females earn 1.1 times more than what males earn in rural areas and less than males in cities and urban villages. In the case of marital status, being married offers relatively higher returns for males than females. One possible explanation is that married females are negatively affected by being away from work due to maternity duties. Parenthood and child bearing may therefore serve as a potential career interruption to the female employees. Good access to education leads to higher return in wages, hence continuing to invest in human capital investment. Higher education is instrumental in giving females a competitive edge over their male counterparts. In addition, empowerment in females in society should be promoted to change common perceptions of female workers in the labor market. There is also a need to value female’s work in highly feminized sectors; for example, attracting males into clerical support services, health and education sectors would also address the wage gap problem and address occupational segregation”, states the report.
Explaining the wage gap between men and women in the Botswana job market, Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “everyone has a responsibility to address the gender pay gap. We are all subject to bias and that is how the pay gap comes about. There is still the thinking that men are smarter, have natural leadership skills, need to provide for their family, are highly competitive and we need to pay them more. Subconsciously we don’t think that about women. This actually very powerful and we need to get away from that bias. Openly available knowledge of salaries might offer much needed intelligence to employees to enable them to make important decisions regarding their careers. If people are overpaid, they’ll keep quiet and not make too many waves. If they are underpaid, they could speak up, talk to their boss and inquire as to why that is. When one woman starts fighting for herself, there’s a process that happens and she is actually fighting for others. It is not normal to pay people less for the same work.”
Dr Sophie Moagi, psychologist in Gaborone on the other hand says the gender pay gap is a sign of discrimination. “Lack of knowledge about who makes what undermines the ability of all workers, especially women. Too often it is assumed that a gender pay gap is not evidence of discrimination. Occupational differences between women and men are often affected by gender bias. For example, by the time a woman earns her first salary, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, expectations set by those who raised her and widespread norms and expectations about work and family balance held by employers, co-workers, and society. In other words, even though women disproportionately enter lower-paid, female-dominated occupations, this decision is shaped by discrimination, societal norms, and other forces beyond women’s control. The gender wage gap is real and it hurts women across the board by suppressing their earnings and making it harder to balance work and family.”