The 2010 Census of Population and Housing reveals many gender gaps in the Cayman Islands, including an average income gap of almost 17 per cent.
Overall, this gap was smaller among Caymanians (10.7 per cent) and larger among non-Caymanians (24.8 per cent). Females also earned less than males within many vocations and across all levels of education.
Income varies based on hours worked and occupation or industry and many of the gender gaps in these factors can be traced back to discrimination. The income gap therefore reflects a variety of inequalities and it is important to address the root causes to create a better and more equal future. When males and females have the same opportunities to earn income there are positive effects for women, men, children, families, employers, the economy and society as a whole.
Discrimination in income can be direct or indirect. It is direct when men and women receive different pay for the same work or have different job requirements for the same pay. These discrepancies may be based on sex or on gender characteristics, which are qualities that define what we think of as femininity and masculinity.
Indirect discrimination is even more complicated and can result from a number of different factors. Women tend to work fewer hours and take career breaks because of the unequal burden of unpaid housework, childcare and elder care.
And jobs traditionally associated with men tend to pay better than traditionally female jobs for the same level of skill required and irrespective of the level of qualification.
Women’s work is undervalued in part because they are seen as having primary responsibility for unpaid work in the home and caregiving. This channels females into similar careers, such as domestic work, education and human services, where the skills required and feminine talents like caring and nurturing are not rewarded or well-paid.
Once the gender division of labour is established it encourages women to choose these occupations. Employers often further reinforce the division by not adapting work environments to suit men and women or by favouring one sex over the other.
Gender gaps in part reflect the outcomes of discriminatory social processes. Therefore, valuing girls and boys and men and women equally and promoting equality of opportunity in all areas is important to minimise discrimination that leads to and reinforces inequality.
When we have expectations or feelings about people based their sex or gender we may discriminate and reinforce inequality without even realising it. As individuals we can all strive to recognise stereotypes or prejudices we may have about the qualities or capabilities of males and females and what roles, career paths and other personal choices are “suitable” for each sex.
When we are more conscious of these assumptions we can choose how we respond – within our families and home lives; in the workplace as employers and employees; as parents, teachers and mentors to children; and in other relationships and positions that we have and hold.
Choose to promote gender equality. Don’t stereotype.
More information on gender gaps in the Cayman Islands and other issues is available at www.genderequality.gov.ky.