Reasons behind widening gender pay gap in India


Preference given to male workers while recruiting or promoting to senior roles, and the career-breaks women take for certain personal and societal reasons are the primary causes behind this gap.

India has always been a patriarchy. However, industrialisation and urbanisation created platforms where women could feel equal. It did bring women at par with men in terms of roles and responsibilities, but one thing still remained unequal —the salary. Various surveys in the past showed a significant difference and the same exists even today.

Monster India released a survey report on 17 May, which revealed the huge gender pay gap that exists in India. It stands at a gaping 27 per cent, where men earn a median gross hourly salary of Rs 288.68, while women get only Rs 207.85 per hour. Be it large or small, the gap exists across industries. The survey reported a gender pay gap of 17.7 per cent in the transport as well as the banking, financial services & insurance (BFSI) sectors, as the lowest, whereas the manufacturing sector reported the highest with a pay gap of 34.9 per cent.

The various sectors covered by the survey were – IT services , health care, caring services, social work; education, research; financial services, banking, insurance; transport, logistics, communication; construction and technical consultancy; manufacturing and legal and market consultancy, and business activities.

Some of the reasons behind this pay gap, as per the report, are preference given to male workers while recruiting or promoting to senior roles, and the career-breaks women take for certain personal and societal reasons.

Saundarya Rajesh, one of the 100 women achievers selected by the Government of India (Ministry of Women and Child Development), says, “the major factors causing this gender pay gap are – interrupted careers of women due to off-ramping and breaks, inability of a large percentage of women (almost 60 per cent) to be comfortable in business roles, hence relegated to only peripheral or non-revenue generating roles and consequently, inability of many women (almost 70 per cent) to have variable pay by way of linking with sales/business results”.

While it has been long debated that the career breaks women take for child care or elder care are inevitable, a lot of organisations have also introduced women-friendly policies to bring back or retain their female talent. Very recently, Tata Sons announced a seven months’ maternity leave for its women with an extension of up to 18 months.

However, many organisations still need to work towards helping women get to the same level as their male colleagues. Leadership intent to engage women, especially returning women, is crucial. This is ‘inclusion in action’. Training the hiring team on how to assess women on breaks, how to identify potential and to match the same with the right job is essential. Having a clear strategy in place, as well as policies that direct and guide are also critical. But, most important is the realisation that women are a crucial talent pool that needs to be engaged at all life-stages.

Along with organisations waking up to the need for bridging gender gaps, it is also the responsibility of women to stay up-to-date of these changes, and upskill themselves constantly, especially when they need to take career breaks.

Women should plan the break meticulously if completely unavoidable. Women must identify a re-entry path. It could be through an internship (there are many such internships being offered – primary among them being the Tata SCIP programme) or through a second-career programme of a company. When she returns, the woman should exhibit great confidence and the energy to be seen as intentional about her return. Her skills too have to be current – this can be achieved by keeping abreast of major happenings and trends in the industry, and having conversations with ex -colleagues/friends/mentors about the key changes in her skills/industry. Training programmes, boot-camp sessions and attitudinal change sessions will also be beneficial.


  1. Good article. But, the pay gap may be on the basis of non-equality of work, output, seniority etc. The standard pay practice generally followed across is the ‘equal work, equal pay, equal position’ irrespective of gender considerations.

  2. Do agree with the statistics…which are good for comparison…However one needs to understand the ‘statistical function’ being used for the context…Median is the highest value…Mode is the most frequent value..and finally Mean is the average value!

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