Access to public information, apart from being a basic right, is a mechanism that benefits the democratic process and promotes transparency and accountability. It facilitates being informed of and following up on authorities’ actions, strengthens trust among society members, and promotes inclusive participatory processes in public decision-making. There is also a current trend in the private sector to accelerate transparency to increase profitability.
Transparency is also a useful instrument in pursuing gender equality. The main reason is its potential to make the existing inequality between men and women in our society visible. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to change what cannot be seen and measured. The implementation of transparency makes existing inequalities more evident, which in turn allows them to be considered for public discussion, awareness, and positive action. It provides the means to raise our voices against injustice. Transparency is a fundamental aspect for fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal 16 regarding peace, justice and strong institutions. Likewise, it opens the door to more inclusive, just, democratic, and participative societies.
A clear example of how transparency is an effective tool in promoting gender equality is how it’s used in closing the gender pay gap. In many countries, women earn less than men for doing the same job. Women still make only $0.79 for every dollar men make. This is unacceptable.
Iceland, the United Kingdom and Germany approved legislative initiatives obligating companies of a certain size to publish information about all workers’ wages. This measure has helped reduce pay discrimination and correct irregularities. Transparency is a type of vigilance that, despite holding no coercive power, allows a light to be shined on imbalances to encourage reparation. Additionally, it builds trust and promotes positive discourse in which companies show their commitment to increasingly relevant social values.
The infamous case of Carrie Gracie, the BBC correspondent who refused to relocate to China unless the BBC offered her a salary matching those of her male colleagues who earned 50% more, comes to mind. As a result of this situation, the Director General of BBC, Toni Hall, made the commitment to close the gender pay gap by 2020. This represents a step forward in gender equality.
Of course, publishing employee salary figures is not enough to eradicate the gender pay gap completely, but it is a definite step in the right direction. Such information access and transparency measures should be coupled with concrete long-term actions, political will, and an organization’s full commitment. Transparency should be required of all cutting-edge entities wishing to combat irregularities that hinder their functions and endanger the values of equality, justice, inclusion and respect for human rights.