Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
SALARIES / MAR. 07, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Is Sexism The Primary Factor For Gender Pay Gap?

Lawmakers continually promote legislation that brings about equal pay for equal work, an initiative that is meant to end the small gender gap in pay. One figure is continually promoted in research reports, media outlets and in political discourse: women earn only $0.77 for every dollar that men do. Discrimination is usually cited as the culprit.

Is sexism the most important reason for the gap in gender income disparities? No, not at all, says Harvard economist Claudia Goldin in a new report that tackles the issue. Goldin has blamed the pay gap on two factors: job flexibility and the amount of hours worked.

According to the report entitled “A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter,” businesses that offer its employees a flexible schedule and the same pay per hour worked, despite when it was completed, maintain the lowest gaps in pay between both genders as well as more female employees overall.

“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours," Goldin wrote. "Such change has taken off in various sectors, such as technology, science, and health, but is less apparent in the corporate, financial, and legal worlds."

Furthermore, the research paper cites the differences that men and women have in both job experience and education.

When the matter is compartmentalized to gender pay gaps, it all comes down to flexibility. This can be found in data that finds the gap increases as workers get older – women take time off work to have children and thus hurt their potential to earn more or get a job promotion. Men experience the same problem when they too take time off work for parental reasons.

This means that the solution to payment schemes between genders would fall onto the shoulders of employers and not labor legislation. One concept that Goldin suggests is for companies to focus more on results rather than where or when the work is completed, which is described as an outdated business practice.

The Harvard paper comes as another study found that there is no gender pay gap in any of the science, tech, engineering, mathematics and computer fields. The American Association of University Women published the results of its study entitled “Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation.” It found that these career fields “are the best-paying jobs for women one year out of college. These tend to be occupations that are well paying throughout a career as well.”

Other Research

Several studies have concluded that men and women select different occupations and education – men are likelier to attend college for computer science and engineering (high paying), while women will attain a degree in education and psychology (low paying). The various published data will then indicate that men post higher earning power, but it doesn’t necessarily mean women are being discriminated against in the exact same kind of job with similar duties and tasks.

Further research over the years, particularly conducted by economist Thomas Sowell, has also found that some of the pay gap can be related to marital status. In fact, his very own research has discovered that if one were to compare a man and a woman with the same education, career, hours worked and marital status then the wage disparity is invalidated.

In a study of individuals aged 27 to 33 who had never been married and had no children, the pay gap was only two cents.

Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader and 2014 Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory recently got into trouble after urging women to complain more when talking about pay. He then suggested to women everywhere to learn how to play golf in order to advance in their careers.

Although there might not be any evidence to surmise that golfing skills can lead to career enhancement, two studies – one by the University of Chicago and the other by the National Bureau of Economic Research – have discovered that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries.

A lot of economists will make the point that if women want to earn more – just like their male counterparts – then they must improve their own human capital, such as skills, knowledge and experience.

Have an opinion on this topic? Share your concerns, arguments and ideas in the comment section.

Business woman sitting on a desk image via Victor1558/creative commons

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