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Mind the (gender pay) gap

International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, isn’t just a chance to honour those who make up nearly 50% of the world’s population. It’s also an occasion that causes many organisations’ marketing divisions to completely malfunction. They either use tired tropes that paint absolutely all women as homemakers, mothers and lovers of the colour pink or they unwittingly reveal their biases and shortcomings. 

This year, technology and a couple on a mission provided a twist by turning the day into a series we like to call “hypocritical companies getting gloriously trolled on Twitter”. The UK couple created a little Twitter bot: @paygapapp. As its Twitter bio puts it: “Employers, if you tweet about International Women’s Day, I’ll retweet your gender pay gap 👀” 

The bot uses government data on British companies’ gender pay that has, since 2017, been a matter of public record, the Washington Post reported for companies with more than 250 employees. In 2020, according to the country’s Office for National Statistics, women earned about 85% of what men did. 

And so the little pay gap bot set the cat among the pigeons on Tuesday: many UK organisations boasting about their respect and support for women hurriedly deleted their posts when the bot revealed in-house pay gaps of up to – wait for it – 89%. It’s great to see corporate and institutional hypocrisy revealed in real-time. We shudder to think what a similar bot might highlight here in SA…

Speaking of SA, one of the day’s biggest local losers was Stellenbosch University. In a since-deleted tweet, the institution set out to celebrate the women in its senior management. Great idea – pity that not a single black African woman was featured. After a slew of justifiably angry responses, the tweet quietly vanished and a university spokesman apologised

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 10 March  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.