HR biases fan gender discrimination

Job titles to indicate superiority disadvantages women thus the lower pay

Job titles to indicate superiority disadvantages women, thus the lower pay

Wednesday July 01 2020

Men in Kenya still earn higher than women for equal work done due to persistent biased human resource practices, corporate lawyers say.

Corporate law counsel Anne Mutie said favouritism and male chauvinism continue to influence corporate hiring and determination of employees’ salaries. This practice, she said, is working against the women. 

"What happens in law and in practice are totally two different things," she said during a June 26 Covid-19 HR Practices, Legal Concerns and the Part Women Play webinar.

"What ends up happening in practice is favouritism and chauvinism particularly in the aspect of equal pay for work of equal value done," she added during the webinar organised by Usawa Inc.

In Kenya, women earn Sh55 for every Sh100 a man earns according to World Economic Forum.

Women can be subjects of either direct or indirect wage discrimination manifested in different ways.

Direct wage discrimination, for instance, involves cases where two similar jobs are given different titles, depending on the gender of the person who performs them, International Labour Organisation (ILO) elaborates in its Global Wage Report 2018/19.

Chef, for instance, is used to refer to men and cook for women. At the same time, management assistant is used to identify men, while secretary is instead preferred for women.

Indirect wage discrimination is, however, more subtle and more difficult to detect, ILO indicates.


"It may manifest itself in different structures and customary practices, including, for instance, in the way wages are structured, and the relative weight in overall remuneration of seniority or of bonuses that reward long hours of continued presence in the workplace", ILO states in the report.

Ms Mutie noted that questions on marital status set off basis for pay discrimination and women should speak against the bias.

"It is a discriminatory practice if an employer asks a woman whether she is married or not unless it's linked to benefits like including the spouse in the medic cover," she said.

"The employer should not ask that question for the sake of calculating how soon she could be pregnant, that is discrimination."

KenGen Foundation Trustee Mr Paul Wambugu said titling of jobs to indicate superiority disadvantages women thus the lower pay.

He advocated for use of female role models to change the society's attitude towards women.

This way, he said, lawmakers can develop women-friendly policies while employers can begin to value the work women do and offer commensurate pay.

"Use role models like the late Wangari Maathai to showcase women's power to lead and change the society," he said.

Head of Legal at Nairobi Java House, Maureen Mithamo, said corporates must be deliberate in developing and effecting policies on equal pay for work of equal value.