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Shatter glass ceiling to close pay gap

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Talk about closing the gender pay gap is fashionable again, probably because we’re just around the corner from parliamentary elections and everyone has, insincerely, jumped on the ‘equality’ bandwagon.

Others add their voices to the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse that society sweeps under the carpet. We need action, not words.

Saying that women in Cyprus get paid 10% less than their male counterparts, might sound like a headline-grabbing statement, but it helps, nevertheless, raise awareness about eradicating gender-based inequality.

But, saying that Cyprus is ranked better than the EU average is a pathetic excuse for not lifting a finger.

In a society where women have traditionally been less vocal than their male counterparts – be it at work, education, sports or at home – the argument is far greater. Many have missed the point, female politicians chief among them.

The younger generation of female professionals, better educated, resort to expressing themselves more astutely nowadays than their mothers, aunts or grandmothers had, even though some of them cracked the glass ceiling decades ago, paving the way for women to smash it today.

Women in Cyprus can pride themselves on many ‘firsts’, mainly because they were encouraged by open-minded and progressive mentors throughout the last century.

They deserve more because they were the ones to maintain the household when the men worked in the fields or the mines, or went to war, and made sure their children were deprived of nothing, primarily a better education.

Thanks to the dowry system, which was only abolished a few decades ago, women are financially more savvy, evident from the economic mess that men have left behind them with the wives, widows or daughters having to pick up the pieces and sometimes rebuild from scratch.

Closing the gender pay gap will only be achieved after gender-based inequality is championed. Daresay, by women themselves.

In the public sector, that accounts for more than half the Cyprus payroll, women are paid equally with men.

The same applies to banks, schools, and other sectors, where female names of partners and CEOs are more frequent now than ever before.

And that is where the problem lies.

The questions should have been, are there equally qualified women for the same job? How can women climb that ladder, unhindered by obstacles created by men?

When the board of a company is dominated by men, some there by merit, others by political influence or inheritance, opportunities are scarce.

Or when the selection committees of a bank, audit, or law firm, or even the public sector, are near- or all-male, what chances do women have of attaining leadership?

Women need to have the same tools of professional and academic qualifications, which is the only measure to ensure two people are treated equally.

And the only way to get them is by smashing some of these glass ceilings.

The best way would be to abolish the women’s branches of political parties and trade unions, a long-outdated initiative established to “look after” women’s rights in the ’60s.

Perhaps the political sphere is the only place where quotas should be introduced. 

Until such time that female candidates comprise at least 50% of the electoral list and parliament will see half the elected deputies being women.

As a first step, female voters should throw a spanner in the works of the upcoming elections.

If a political party does not propose half its candidates to be women, it is simply not serious. And the same applies to municipal elections and even the next presidential run-off.

Swiss artist Simon Berger installed a glass sculpture in Washington DC, ironically made from broken glass, depicting the history-making first female Vice President of America, Kamala Harris.

Perhaps, a (female) artist should be commissioned to create a similar work symbolising the shattering of the glass ceiling by Stella Soulioti, the first female Justice Minister, Law Commissioner and Attorney General of Cyprus.

That is the role model everybody should look up to, regardless of gender.