Sweden is considered one of the most equal countries in the world. When it comes to wages, The Global Gender Gap Report, published by the World Economic Forum, ranks the country fourth globally. However, the gap between men and women’s salaries has hardly changed at all for the past thirty years and at the current pace, it will take more than a century to truly reach equal pay. To protest against this, Annelie Nordström, President of Sweden’s largest trade union Kommunal, temporarily “became a man” to prove her point. The action was taken to inspire women across the globe to join her in the campaign Be a Man. The international initiative aims to become the world’s largest awareness raising campaign against unequal pay.
“It’s sad that Sweden is considered to be a global example of equal pay, given how far we have left to go,” says Annelie Nordström, President of Kommunal. “We want to do something on a global scale to improve the situation for women everywhere.”
In Sweden, women were first allowed to vote in 1919. Almost 100 years later, the wage gap is still significant. Swedish men earn $682 more per month than women, or $10.8 billion per year. Measured in time, men only need to work until 3:52 PM, whilst a woman has to work until 5 PM to earn the same amount. Swedish women earn only 82 percent of what the nation’s men do.
“The most comprehensive example is when you compare a nurse to a mechanic,” says Annelie. “For some reason, we as a society value the people who take care of our cars higher than the ones that tend to our children or our elderly parents.”
The Be a Man campaign highlights the absurd fact that the easiest way for a woman to get a raise is to become a man. By using either a smartphone app or visiting www.BEaMAN.se, women from around the globe can create a male version of any photo of themselves. The image is then shared on social media creating the largest awareness raising campaign against inequality in history.
The salary gap is also an issue in the Middle East. A recent ‘Women in the MENA Workplace 2012’ survey of more than 2,000 working women conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s leading job site, and YouGov, a research and consulting organisation, has revealed that working women in the region are motivated professionally mostly by monetary prospects.
When asked asked about reasons for employment and better pay, the majority of women (57%) chose “gain financial independence”. This is especially true in Saudi Araia, where 65% of women – the highest in the region – stated this as their main objective, as did most Arab women residing in the GCC (58%) and Western women (57%).
When looking for a job, MENA women take the following into consideration, in order of importance: salary (59%), opportunities for long-term career growth (31%) and health insurance for their whole family (28%). Retirement benefits are important to working women aged 46 and above.
“Women across the MENA region are breaking stereotypes and embracing their careers more wholeheartedly than ever before. There is a desire for equality and it seems that, for the most part, this desire is being acknowledged by employers,” said Lama Ataya, a spokesperson at Bayt.com.
The survey showed that there are more female managers and bosses in Lebanon (28%), Tunisia (24%) and UAE (20%) in comparison to other countries, though only 19% of respondents across the region claim to report to a woman.
Almost half of the surveyed women (44%) state that fewer opportunities for job promotions are the biggest challenge they face in their work. Stressful and demanding work environments follow, according to 38%, while a third (33%) state that lack of flexible working timings, limited opportunities to perform and insufficient job training and coaching are equally demanding.
When it comes to working hours, 58% of women claim to put in as many as their male colleagues, while 22% claim to work even more.
Sentiments are equally divided in terms of whether women feel they receive equal or less pay than men working within their company (an evenly-split 41% both ways), with women in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia feeling that they receive less. Four out of ten (40%) of the region’s working women believe that their chances for promotion are dependent more upon their performance than their gender, however, 31% believe that they are at a disadvantage in this respect because they are female.
More than half (56%) of women believe that they are treated equally to their male counterparts in the workplace, and 65% state that there are no special benefits for female employees within their company. In Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE however, women feel that men are given preferential treatment.
While a matter of principle, women want better pay to secure their family’s future. Let’s hope there’s an easier way to get better pay than to become a man!
Men only need to work until 3:52 PM, compared to 5 pm for women to earn the same amount.
Almost half of the surveyed women state that fewer opportunities for job promotions are the biggest challenge
The Be A Man campaign highlights the absurd fact that the easiest way for a woman to get a raise is to become a man