Nyiransabimana’s pay would always be lower than that of her male coworkers; she had already resigned herself to the “fact.” But she believed that addressing pay disparities was a responsibility that rested with her employers. On paper, Nyiransabimana, who was granted anonymity by The New Times for this story, holds a managerial position similar to that of two male colleagues at a major publishing company. In reality, she not only does at least twice the amount of work her male counterparts do but also receives less than half of their salary. She argues that her role is more crucial for the company and significantly more time-consuming. According to her, her work often overlaps with their responsibilities. “If someone in project management needs to draft a statement, compose a lengthy email, or arrange a meeting, they consistently turn to me. So, I believe my colleagues' responsibilities are more narrowly defined compared to mine,” she explains. Perhaps she could muster the courage to file a complaint, but she perceives it as a futile endeavour, leading her to question, “Why bother?” Nyiransabimana elaborates on this sentiment: “If you complain, you can voice your concerns endlessly, appeal to the higher-ups as much as you want. But when you are certain that nothing will ever change, it’s better to spare yourself the frustration and simply accept it.” Plus, it’s upsetting that one has to resort to complaining in the first place. She adds, “You know, the fact that people actually sit down to determine salaries, and this is the outcome despite their understanding of everyone’s roles and contributions. They are aware of what you do, they see your efforts, but it remains unchanged. That is the issue.” Nyiransabimana's experience vividly exemplifies the unfortunate reality of how little attention the gender pay gap receives in Rwanda: the extent to which women must depend on the personal integrity and fairness of their employers, and how powerless they feel in the face of their indifference. Thus, at present, much like numerous women facing similar circumstances, her unequal pay status remains unchanged. And she is certainly not an isolated case. What is Equal Pay Day ? September 18, a symbolic day (also celebrated on November 15), highlights the additional hours Rwandan women must work each year to match their male counterparts' earnings due to gender pay disparities. In one company, a Gender Monitoring Office study revealed that 27 female employees earned a combined monthly salary of Rwf 11 million, while 11 male employees in the same company earned over Rwf 16 million per month. Since 2016, Rwanda has adopted a new employment definition in line with the ILO resolutions from the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, excluding subsistence agriculture from the labour force calculation. The latest labour force survey in May 2023 indicated a male labour force participation rate of 67 per cent, while females had a participation rate of 54 per cent. This marks a decline from 86 per cent female labour force participation in 2016 when Rwanda had one of the highest rates. According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, women in Rwanda earned 88 cents for every dollar men earned. The New Times approached NISR for an updated report, and they responded, “According to a series of employment statistics, there is no gender pay gap observed in Rwanda, whether in the public or private sectors.” Nyiransabimana may beg to differ, but let’s set that aside for a moment. The gender pay gap quantifies the relative disparity between average hourly wages for men and women performing the same job. Following the ILO’s decent work indicator, it can be calculated as the percentage difference between the gross average hourly earnings of male and female employees compared to those of male employees. An email from an NISR employee explained that in Rwanda's employment statistics, an extended Mincer equation is used to account for differences in individual characteristics and job attributes such as education, work experience, occupation, industry, formal employment status, and contract type. This approach aims to make meaningful wage comparisons between males and females in similar roles. If we’re going by the ILO's resolutions from the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, which was mentioned above, today’s gender pay gap doesn't account for the earnings of part-time or “casual” workers, many of whom are women and typically earn lower wages, allowing much pay discrimination to go unnoticed. The NISR source also pointed out that the findings from the August 2017 Labor Force Survey show no difference in hourly income between men and women (although this contrasts with the 2017 studies conducted by the World Economic Forum). However, when considering monthly earnings using the Extended Mincer Equation, women are paid roughly 13 per cent less than men. The difference in results between hourly and monthly earnings is attributed to men working more hours per month than women, though it may not fully reflect the gender pay gap. The report revealed that men work an additional five hours per week compared to women. Factors responsible Unpaid labour plays a part: women often perform household chores in addition to their full-time jobs, a responsibility they tend to shoulder more than men, even when both are employed. As reported by The New Times in January, women spend an average of 7.1 hours per day on unpaid care work, while men dedicate only 2.1 hours. This gap remains relatively consistent even among urban women, who spend 6.9 hours per day on such work compared to their male counterparts' 2.1 hours. Women are unfairly bearing the brunt of unpaid labour. The “motherhood and nurturing penalty” is another significant factor at play. A key issue is that women are more likely than men to leave the workforce to care for children. When mothers do work, they face lower salary offers and a reduced likelihood of being hired, which perpetuates a perception that hinders their chances of promotion. As a result, women are far less likely to hold managerial positions. It's worth noting that roles that involve caring for preschool children or elderly care home residents, for example, are of paramount importance. But as a society, we have tacitly accepted that these predominantly female roles seldom command wages above the national minimum. Transparency alone may not suffice, but it marks the initial step towards achieving equal pay The gender pay gap results from a cumulative effect of the above factors, according to Donah Kamashazi, a practising lawyer and gender expert with two decades of experience in policy analysis, developmental policies, strategic planning, and gender-related advisory. Regarding the idea of women working fewer hours, Kamashazi emphasised, “When you mention that women work fewer hours, what exactly do you mean? We need to consider that women often take breaks from work due to various family responsibilities like childbirth or taking care of sick family members. It's important to quantify this work so that we don't unfairly label it as 'working less' when they haven't had proper rest.” She suggested that institutions should find ways to recognize the value of this work, perhaps through policies promoting work-life balance. “Many women take on unpaid caregiving roles, which can reduce their availability for paid work. If we are not able to give it value in terms of money, we should at least be able to give it value in the way we talk about it,” she said, adding that there's a need to enhance support for nursing mothers. “Workplaces could benefit from having nursery rooms where mothers can bring their babies, ensuring a smoother transition back to work after childbirth.” She went on to highlight a Transparency Rwanda report that identified a noticeable pay gap, especially within private sector organisations, where negotiation skills often come into play. Even if individuals hold similar positions, disparities can arise because someone may excel in negotiating their pay. Kamashazi noted that their Gender Seal Certification program has revealed that this predominantly affects women. “Some women may feel compelled to accept offers due to concerns that they might not be perceived as capable, while others lack the information needed for effective negotiation,” she said. Negotiation skills are crucial, and research indicates that women often lack adequate training in negotiation, especially in private sector roles. Consequently, women may accept the first offer they receive, while men tend to possess the knowledge and ability to market themselves effectively. In many cases, women do not have access to formal documents that clearly demonstrate unequal pay. Instead, they may suspect unfairness after several years of work. Nyiransabimana only obtained the documents that shined a light on her pay gap because “it was assumed that no one would take the time to review them thoroughly. Speaking out about pay disparities can be challenging for women, as the Rwandan culture has a strong taboo against discussing salary matters openly.” But Kamashazi suggested that the government could promote equal pay by granting women the right to access information about the salaries of their male colleagues in the same roles. “I also think there is a need for a standardised structure where positions and their corresponding salaries are clearly defined, ensuring transparency, especially within the private sector,” the gender expert concluded. Gender pay gaps reflect how society values the contributions of women and men in the workforce, and there’s a pressing need for improvement in this regard. Women deserve better.