A top United Nations (UN) spokeswoman in the Caribbean today expressed strong concern that men still had the upper hand on women when it came to the size of their paychecks.
However, addressing a panel discussion entitled Women’s Economic Empowerment in the changing world of work, which was held in observance of International Women’s Day, Head of UN Women Tonni Brodber reported that while the gender pay gap was 24 per cent globally, it was only 19 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Barbados, men were said to earn 25 per cent more than women, with the highest earnings gap found among low-income workers.
“An August 2010 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report reviewing Gender Earning Gaps in the Caribbean with evidence from Barbados and Jamaica noted that in both countries, as in most of the Caribbean region, females’ educational achievement is higher than that of males. Nonetheless, males’ earnings surpass those of their female peers,” Brodber said.
“Based on their comparison, males’ earnings surpass those of females by between 14 and 27 per cent of average females’ wages in Barbados, and between eight and 17 per cent of average female wages in Jamaica,” she added.
The UN spokeswoman also revealed that a 2004 Barbados study had shown that while women made up 60 per cent of the workforce in the vital tourism industry, they were not in leadership or decision-making positions, and were also the first to lose their jobs in times of financial difficulty.
Brodber also highlighted the most recent country gender assessments carried out by the Caribbean Development Bank, which showed that “academic over-achievement of girls in the region, compared to boys, has not translated into higher female labour force participation and earnings, especially in the sectors that contribute the most to GDP”.
However, warning that the gender pay gap was unsustainable, the UN official told participants in today’s panel discussion, entitled Throw like a Girl: Women Propelling Through Business, there needs to be stronger enforcement of regulations to do with equal pay for equal work.
“Ensure that businesses do their part to close the gender pay gap,” she told the gathering at UN House in Christ Church, while also calling for empowerment of both girls and boys “to look beyond what stereotypes tell them they can or cannot do, and enter into fields that interest them”.