Gender Discrimination and Pay Gap in the Workplace


It is not secret that there is and always has been gender discrimination in the workplace. Females are treated differently in the workplace, they are kept from occupying executive posts in an organization, they are delegated less responsibility, and most importantly, they are paid less than their male counterparts.

This paper will revolve around the question of discrimination in the workplace. Are women paid less than men? The paper will prove the hypothesis that women are indeed paid less in the workplace and are discriminated against. First, this will be illustrated by giving statistical information about differences in earnings. After this, reasons for such differences will be discussed and it will be evaluated why there is discrimination in the workplace.


According to an economist’s definition, discrimination in the workplace is when two people have equal productivity but different outcomes. These people are most likely to be a part of different groups. Like I mentioned earlier, it is a well known fact that women have been a target of discrimination in the workplace. Evidence of discrimination in the workplace is subtle. They can be analyzed by either direct testimonies or by studying statistical employment patterns (Jacobsen, 2007).

Some people say that because of this discrimination they are also paid less in earnings than the men in same or similar organizations. Why so? There must be a reason women are the subject of discrimination and not men. Men, obviously, are stronger; physically and sometimes, even mentally. Men are good in crisis. Most men have the attributes of natural leaders, for example, strong mindedness etcetera.

Therefore, we understand the position of men as employees in the society. But, we also know that women should be given an equal chance also, so that they can really prove what all they are capable of. The truth is that women have never really had this chance. This trend is, however, changing now.

Gender Differences in Earnings

In earlier times, the gap between the pay of men and women was large. In recent times, this gap has narrowed to a great extent. What is this gap? This is when men and women earnings are measured, a woman’s earnings is always less than that of a man. Men earnings are used as a standard to measure female pays (Facts on Working Women, 2004).

In 1992, women’s median hourly earning was 79.4 percent of men’s. While the female median wage or salary rate was 75.4 percent of their male equivalents. Annual women earnings in 1992 were 70.6 percent of men earnings (Facts on Working Women, 2004). These figures (adapted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) prove that women are paid less. They were paid even less 40 years earlier than 1992. In these years, from early 1950s, women earnings have grown by 1.3 percent each year while men earnings have only grown by a 1.1 percent annually. This shows that the earnings gap narrowed in these 40 so years and continues to do so.

The widest gap in earnings was found in sales job in the late 1990s. Only one out of every ten women was employed in such an occupation (BLS, 2008). The following graph is adapted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows women’s earnings as a percentage of men earnings over the last 28 years, by age.

Figure one

The graph shows that women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s has generally increased over the last thirty years. The earnings gap has narrowed for all age groups. However, we must remember that employment patters consistently illustrate that women largely occupy lower-paid jobs than men, even after providing for changes in tastes and productivity.

Analysis – Reasons for Gender Differences in the Workplace & Earnings

In this section, reasons for why there is discrimination in the workplace will be examined. Some people believe that men are willing to work for longer hours in the office and have lesser desire to spend time with their families. Women give more preference to family and it is because of this preference that they make choices such as part-time jobs which lead to lower earnings. This has been called the Preference Theory (Giele & Stebbins, 2003).

Also, the human capital approach cannot be overlooked when we talk about the differences in gender. This approach shows that some of the differences in female earnings are because of individual attributes. These may include lesser or lower education, lesser experience and other similar attributes (which will be discussed in detail in the following paragraphs). It is said that the human capital theory can account for the narrowing of the gap from 1970 to 1995, when in 25 years; women’s average pay relative to their male counterparts grew by 15 percent (Giele & Stebbins, 2003).

Feminists may believe that earning inequalities rise as a result of authorities giving preferences to men by the virtue of being men. They are given more privileges only because they are men. This is an extreme point of view, known as the ‘patriarchal approach’, but one that many opponents of the earnings gap hold.

Education is a factor that directly influences earnings. How so? Employers look for education and experience essentially when recruiting employees. Women earn less sometimes because of their own choices, as mentioned earlier. While at other times, their earnings depend on the employer’s decision. If women are not educated enough, they are likely to get lower pays. Unfortunately, men are more educated than women only because they have more opportunities. In developing countries where women get married at an early age have no other option but to forego their educations to care for their families. As a result, they get paid likewise.

Experience is another important aspect that employers look for when recruiting. Women generally have less experience because not many opportunities come their way. The more opportunities you get, the more experience you acquire. Women, in the past, have not been given the chance, and this will therefore influence their experience as a whole. This leads to a penalty in their earnings.

Another part of a human’s capital is the time that is spent on the job. As discussed earlier, women generally spend less time. They look for part-time jobs rather than full-time occupations so that they can look after their families at the same time. Even if women do notg o back home to look after their families, they have more interruptions in the course of their lives such as child bearing. Therefore, the total number of hours that women spend in their workplace is significantly lower than the time that men spend working. This will be even more evident when the compensation method used is a wage-rate system.

Because women have more interruptions and longer breaks, this leads to another important issue. It is because of these interruptions that some employers shy away from investing into females in the form of training and other programs. They feel they will get a higher return if instead they train men, who will be absent for relatively and significantly shorter periods of time (Giele & Stebbins, 2003).

Finally, the skills required for different jobs vary. Some occupations are more suitable for women such as catering while other are more appropriate for men such as flying. If this is a determining cause for the differences in earnings, then it suggests that not many jobs are made for women and are more suitable for men. This is fascinating because some occupations are labeled as female occupations and others as male-occupations and this is the same all over the world.

Effects of Gender Discrimination

What effects does gender discrimination have? These effects are mostly negative by nature. Such discrimination causes sex segregation in the workplace. Because of this segregation, it becomes harder to work in teams. Men feel that they have a competitive edge because they are getting more earnings than the females. They use this to their advantage. Ultimately, this results in lower male and female productivity.

Female productivity suffers because they are de-motivated by the fact that even if they have the same productivity levels as men, they get paid less. They know about how there is discrimination in the workplace and this puts them off. They also see men getting promoted to higher positions while they remain in the same.

As a consequence of gender differences in earnings, women are forced to work lesser hours because they feel that no matter how hard they work, they will still be paid less. However, it is important to notice how globalization is making the whole world one big place without any boundaries. The times and trends are changing and there will come a time when women will be needed to be paid as much as men because the competition will be so intense. If there is continual discrimination, it will become all the more difficult for women to step forward and compete.


It is remarkable how employers employ men more. This means that the burden of feeding their families is on them along with supporting their economies. They do their jobs astonishingly. However, it is important that this burden be shared. Companies could really benefit if they ever gave women the chance to lead executive teams and gave them higher positions in the office. Women have some great attributes such as emotional understanding which could make them great leaders. They should be given the chance and companies should try on their part to narrow the earnings gap as much as they can.

Works Cited

“Earnings Differences Between Women And Men”. Facts on Working Women. 2004. U.S. DOL. 14. 2008. Web.

Giele, Janet and Stebbins, Leslie. Women and Equality in the Workplace. ABC-CLIO, 2003.

Jacobsen, Joyce. The Economics of Gender. Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s, 1979-2007” Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2008. US Department of Labor. Web.