Gender Pay Gap: Switching the Role from Cheering to Leading

Gender wage gap exists when men as a group continue to earn significantly more than women in the labour force. The advocacy for equal pay is a movement that began in the western world and is now gradually trickling down to Africa, although with much resistance due to cultural and religious limitations. However, among the Nigeria population there is a disbelief and misinformation that there exists a gender pay gap. 

The African Human Development Report  (2016) indicates that “Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth”

There are many people in Nigeria that believe that the gender pay gap doesn’t even exist, all because it sounds too ridiculous to be true. 

Nigeria ranked 128th out of 153 countries and 27th out of 53 countries in Africa, on the World Bank’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020 – which implies that the country still has a way to go to attaining gender equality and equal representation for women.

Anthony Ekwueme, a senior accountant, who works with Kiss FM exemplifies a commonly held view.: “There is nothing like the gender pay gap, if anyone deserves a high compensation, then the person gets it regardless of gender” he says.
According to Ekwueme, the Gender pay gap is “over-exaggerated feminist myth in Nigeria,” which is not true. 

The GenderGap calculator highlights that men earn an average of 36% more than women in Nigeria and it would take the world an estimated 166 years to close the economic gap.


When people in Nigeria hear women talk about their gender discrimination experiences, they feel it is “over-exaggerated” and ‘a result of their feministic mindset”. But in reality, the gender pay gap exists in Nigeria even though the rate and popularity vary due to some factors like location, industry type and job role.


Hauwa Mustapha, a unionist, said that, “culture, religion and level of education often affects women being placed side by side with men when it comes to wages and remuneration.” For example in the Northern part of Nigeria, few women are allowed to go to school and are married off early and for those who work, late hours are frowned upon. Jobs like Engineering and ICT related jobs are mostly restricted to men which limit the opportunity given to women in the field of science because these categories of job are viewed as well paying jobs. 


A gender activist, Ada Obiabumo laments that the gender gap is still wide, and cited an example involving her friend.
She worked in an organization where her superior was male. When he left, she took over his position. But she was not given the salary and allowances he was getting. Instead the salary and allowances were slashed. When she asked why, she was told that it’s because she is a woman and she shouldn’t expect the organization to pay her the same remuneration the man was paid.’’


Chiamaka Ada worked as an upholsterer at a furniture company at Idu on the outskirts of Abuja. She said that she quit her job because of discrimination. She explained that she and other women working there were given fewer beddings to make compared to their male colleagues because “the owners felt men can make more and also deserve to earn more”. She left after saving for a few months to start petty trading.


Although the focus is not on women in politics, but without enough representation in politics, the gender pay gap in Nigeria will remain the same or continue to widen. This is because the fewer women in elected office, the more difficult it is to advocate for legislation to remove this kind of systematic discrimination.
For example, Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide, where women have won 61.3 percent of seats in the lower house. If Nigeria had a similar gender divide in political representation, the women representatives would, by their sheer number alone, be able to enact legislation to ensure equal wage in all formal sectors as well as demand for more women to head institutions. For instance, if a government ministry has 12 parastatals under it, they could sponsor bills that will ensure that 6 women heads parastatals and the other six males.This will give room for balance across the board. 

But political representation is not enough. For example, even though women far outnumber men in political representation in Rwanda, the reality is that men make on average $76 more than women per month. This is the 23rd largest gap in Africa.
In Nigeria, a man earns on average 36% more than a woman. according to the  genderGap. This simply means that on average, a man in Nigeria will earn $140 more than a women per month. This is the 17th largest gap in Africa. 


Nigeria started working towards achieving gender equality and the protection of women rights after the institution of a democratic government in 1999, by instituting the Child Rights Acts in 2003, covering 18 states out of the 36 states of Nigeria, and approving the Gender Equality Duty in 2007 for public enterprises and government ministries to implement.

Despite the creation of the ministry for women affairs and social development to cater for the needs of women, there still persists a gender gap. In addition, the Child Rights Acts of 2003 is now obsolete and need to be reviewed.


What Rwanda gets right!

The Global Gender Gap Report looks at four areas in particular: health, education, economy and politics. In two of these, Rwanda is head and shoulders above many other more developed countries.


Let’s start with the economy. At 86%, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of female labour force participation in the world. These pro-women laws might have something to do with the second area in which Rwanda leads: female political participation. Every year for over a decade, Rwanda has topped the global list of countries with the most female political parliamentarians. This performance can be attributed to Rwandas  quota system which was put in place following the genocide, stipulating that women must make up 30% of elected officials. Compare this to the US, where it’s been predicted it will take 500 years for women to reach fair representation in politics.


How did Rwanda – one of the poorest countries in the world – take the lead position?

Rwanda’s key is methodology. However,as highlighted by the Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report,  this does not mean that Rwanda is on the list of the best places in the world to be a woman. Despite Rwanda’s high scores, women there do not really have the best of experiences than their counterparts living in other  countries. For example,What the report instead tries to measure is how far countries have (or have not) gone in closing the gap between men and women across a range of different measures. The advantage of this approach is it sets a level playing field for all countries, regardless of their current development status, and allows us to see how even some of the poorest places in the world are managing to make progress towards gender equality.


Why does all this matter? 

As highlighted earlier, when women work in politics, research suggests they put important but otherwise neglected issues on the table. This can have a significant trickle-down effect, benefiting women from all walks of life.


Levels of female participation and representation in Nigerian politics are low!

A sexist and patronage-based political culture, combined with gendered economic and household inequalities, are seen to be the main barriers to women’s pay rise in most sectors. As this demand is gaining more publicity and acceptance, will Nigeria women not join in the vanguard? Of course the voices of few feminists and gender advocates are making a fainting echo, but the gong and cymbals will be louder if more feminine voices take dominance in economic and political space as these spaces hold the key to power and social change and acceptance.


As of January 2019 , only 20.7 percent of government ministers were women; the five most commonly held portfolios by women ministers are: Social Affairs, Family/Children/Youth/Elderly/Disabled, Environment/Natural Resources/Energy, Employment/Labour/Vocational Training, and Trade/Industry 

(UN Report)


These positions are good but very few women in these positions limit their ability to lead decision making and influence changes.  Notably, in Nigeria, out of the 109 members of the Senate only 10 are female, out of 360 members of the house of representatives only 5 are female, out of the 43 ministers only 7 are female. If we check the ratio, we are far from achieving gender parity in political positions compared to other parts of the world.

The main reason for the lack of women’s representation are:  lack of effective government action; Lower levels of female employment and education; Sexist attitudes, sometimes but not always deriving from religion or traditional practices;  A corrupt and patronage-based political system; Violence at elections, including against women candidates. Nigerian governments have subscribed to international agreements and instituted national policies to improve women’s representation, but have done little to implement concrete measures. Nigerian civil society organisations and international funders have promoted a number of capacity building and behavioural change programmes, although the overall levels of female representation in government have barely improved since 1999. Previous and ongoing efforts by civil society organisations and activists to improve the situation include:  Changing cultural norms through media campaigns and education; Programmes to empower women through training or mentoring; Monitoring the fairness and conduct of elections; Advocating for affirmative action from the state .




There is a need to do more!

Development economist Hauwa Mustapha said the gap in pay based on gender was unconstitutional. She said the gender pay gap is more prevalent the higher up the corporate or public service hierarchy. This is because there are fewer women in these positions to choose from as many women are disadvantaged due to the multiple roles society expects them to perform.

Why is the uncontrolled wage gap so large? 

Women’s upward mobility in the workplace is slower than that of men. They also suffer from opportunity gap— women have limited access to technical and digital roles. Information and communication technology sector is largely dominated by the male gender.

CEO of Desys World, an event company, Toyin Onwordi, explains the challenges women entrepreneurs face in the men’s world, she says, ‘‘But there are some men that just feel they cannot stand and listen to a woman talk. They want to deal with men, and this is not right. A woman has as much to give as a man. In fact you would find out that some women have more to give’’.



There is a need to improve budget on issues that will improve the lot of women, like compulsory girl child education, more preference and support for female science students, allow women that go on maternity leave to take up training and courses missed while on leave, which will enable her rise fast in her career like the men.


There is a need for enforcement of affirmative action to ensure that the public and private sector ensure that at least 35 per cent of their workforce are women. Pay discrimination based on gender should also attract severe punishment for the offending organisation or institution.


According to IMF economist and coauthor, Monique Newiak, Nigerian women could help transform the economy given the chance. Gender reports show that Nigeria suffers from widespread gender inequality and is therefore missing a key ingredient to economic success. Newiak says “reducing gender inequality could boost growth by one and one-quarter percent on average”.


In addition, differences in human capital investment and geopolitical zones also need to be considered, especially in the northern part of Nigeria where women are not exposed to work for long hours and do not take up some jobs due to traditions and religion, which perceive those jobs as a limitation to their active role as women.

Moreso, policies to invest in human capital that target women will reduce the gender gap in education and boost Nigerian economy. With more demand for women in the work place, and the high voice of feminist in political and economic space, the much needed change will be achieved.


According to the International Monetary Fund, if Nigeria reduces gender inequality in its labor market, political representation, education, legal rights, and health sectors, the country’s economy could grow by an average of 1.25 percent


The Role of Gender Wage Acts and Law! 

To strengthen the clamor for equal pay, the Nigeria government instituted the gender equality duty and the Gender Equality Act, and created the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. However, legal authorities are limited by many cultural and economical factors such as human capital dynamics,  occupation segregation, institutional barriers and labour market discrimination, drawing significant attention from national and international bodies, resulting to several research work on the issues of gender wage gap in the Nigeria labour market. For example, on occupational segregation, an average motorist won’t allow a female auto mechanic to fix his/her car even though she has the knowledge,  a male engineer is more trusted than the female counterpart. On institutional barriers, some organisations will not employ women as managers or heads of department, due to pregnancy and other feminine related factors.


Notwithstanding, to  achieve the various  expectations of the government  including poverty reduction and economic  growth, there must be equality in the workplace  and other areas within the economy. These can be done by providing equal wage and opportunity to all without gender consideration; without doubt this will increase labour force participation, productivity and labour force output. 

According to the World Bank’s Trading Economies Report (2010), 95% of Chief Executives  of big firms in Nigeria are men even when they are less qualified. The average wage of Nigerian female workforce within the same  industry and occupation with their male counterpart has not been determined by productivity but gender characteristics, as  against the standards of wage theory proposed by Gerhart & Rynes (2003), which states that wages ought to be measured by productivity. Then we need to ask if the Nigerian labour  wage is determined by the forces of the labour market or some institutional arrangement. 


As the world celebrates International Women’s Week Nigeria women should use this opportunity to demand equal wages as there are no separate markets for males and females, not even now that more women are taking dominance as breadwinners in homes both at nuclear and extended family level. The advocacy should be deliberate and consistent and not just to mark this year’s women’s day celebration, if the Nigerian women want to break the glass ceilings of culture, religion and stereotypes to meet and if possible surpass countries like Rwanda that is making giant strides for equal representation at all levels.


African women giants should dare to take their place in governance by strategizing to aspire for positions such as Central Bank Governor, Presidency and all other prominent positions, because she who wears the shoe knows where it pinches, they should not allow the men to decide their faith. This demand should not be seen as egoistic or competitive, submission to man as the head in the home is vital, but also demanding for equal wage is demanding for justice and no one should be denied. 



(This story was supported by Code for Africa via it’s Academy Wanadata Community Initiative.)


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