Many career women are battling salary waves in the sea of gender pay gap in the corporate scene.
Simon Mburu explores how they can master the art of getting paid what they are worth.
Five months had passed since Florence Situma quit her job as a credit manager at a Nairobi-based micro finance institution. She had quit in January 2017 after falling out with her seniors.
"I felt that my work environment had become too corrosive. I was also not pleased with the remuneration I was getting," says the 38-year-old mother of two.
But by March 2017, Florence began to wonder if quitting had been the right decision. Despite having a good resume with concrete career achievements, she had found it difficult to get another job in the banking sector.
"I had this creeping fear that perhaps I had thrown an opportunity down the drain," she says. But towards the end of June 2017, lady luck smiled at her.
"I was invited to take over as a bank branch manager in Laikipia County for one of the leading tier 1 banks," she says. She was offered a starting salary of Sh120,000, which was more than the Sh70,000 salary that she had been making at her previous job.
"I was excited and grateful that the five-month wait had paid off!" She settled at her new workplace and started improving the branch transaction and customer conversion rates.
But in December last year, Florence was hit by a thunderbolt. "It dawned on me that my monthly salary was Sh50,000 less than what the previous manager was earning.
"I had a Master's degree, which he didn't have. I had also cracked more business for the bank than he had managed during his tenure.
Whichever way I looked at it, it appeared that his salary was more privileged because of his gender," she says.
Alarmingly, Florence is not the only career woman battling salary waves in the sea of gender pay gap in Kenya's corporate scene.
Many companies pay their male employees higher salaries than their female workers for the same jobs, responsibilities, and duties.
For example, a 2017 report on the gender pay gap in the workplace by the World Economic Forum showed that women on average get paid Sh 62 per hour compared to men, who are paid Sh100 per hour for the same tasks.
The report titled Global Gender Report also showed that Kenya lags far behind in bridging the salary inequality gap between men and women.
The study by the World Economic Forum was echoed by a survey on the best 100 companies to work for that was conducted by Brighter Monday last year.
This survey showed that in Kenya, there are 10 per cent men in high salary brackets than women.
For example, men who earn Sh251,000 and above stand at 55 per cent compared to 45 per cent of women, who take home the same amount every end month.
Also, a survey report by the Daily Nation’s Newsplex in 2018 showed that only one in every three women working in the formal sector earn Sh100,000 and monthly.
The Daily Nation Newsplex report also showed that a third of formal sector employees are women. This disparity is stretched to the job positions that women and men hold.
The report by Brighter Monday shows that men will tend to occupy more positions in the senior levels of a company while women generally occupy more entry and mid positions.
For example, among the 62 companies that are listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, only four are headed by women.
Incidentally, the gender pay gap is not only restricted to the corporate scene.
In May 2018, US-based Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg was paid eight times more than his female colleague, Michelle Williams, for a screen play with comparable screen time.
Wahlberg was paid Sh500 million while Williams got Sh62.5 million in a payout deal that revealed the ugly face of financial gender discrimination at Hollywood.
Granted, the quest for higher and worthier pay is not a breeze for many career women like Florence.
Mostly, the common victims of pay discrimination in the corporate world are women aged between 25 and 35 years. Kate Nderu, a human capital strategist for SMEs, who is based in Nairobi, says some employers see these women as caregivers to the society, who are bound to take intermittent family breaks at the workplace.
“Unlike men, women tend to be subjected to gender-based victimisation at the workplace and as a result, they are disabled in negotiating based on the value proposition to the organisations they work for,” she says.
While a small percentage of working women have mastered the art of getting paid what they are worth, thousands, if not millions, of others are still in the woods.
How do you ask for a higher pay without looking greedy? Why are women overlooked when pay raises are given?
How can the gender-pay status quo be balanced? These are some of the questions that these underpaid working women have had to contend with.