Gender Pay Discrimination at the Workplace

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1418
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Undergraduate


Women in the workplace have been faced with discriminative issues such as sexual, pay and other forms of discrimination. Women are yet to penetrate some areas of specialization where there is male dominance in the workplace in some countries, especially in the developing countries. Statistics have shown that women have been under-represented in the executive positions. Among the corporate officers in the America’s 500 largest companies, women constituted 11.9% in 1999 representing a 35% since 1995, according to Catalyst.

Companies that employed two or more women officers rose from 220 to 282 representing a 29% increase, but men still held 93% of the ““line” officer positions (the high profile jobs with profit-and-loss responsibility that often lead to the most senior management positions and significant salary increases”) (Lebeau, 2009). In 1998, about 7.1 million women held positions in the managerial, administrative and executive positions that were full-time based. Women have also been resisted to penetrate in the managerial positions in comparison to their male co-workers.

History of disparities in pay at the workplace

Low wages for women in historic times have been linked to the belief that they are supposed to stay at home and that they are not as capable as men. Public service journals of 1895 noted that cheap women labor was seen as threat to men and boys’ seeking for employment according to NZ Council of Trade Unions (2008). In New Zealand, women wage earners increased to a total of about 45,000 out of the total population of 130,000 by 1893, while more than half of the university students were women. Organizations such as the National Council of Women and the YWCA championed for equal pay amid growing concern over the exploitation of women in professions such as dressmakers and teachers in which they dominated.

Women have experienced legislation seeking to establish equal pay in history, for example the Government Service Equal Pay Act in 1960, Equal Pay Act of 1972 and the repeal of the Pay Equity Act in 1990 in New Zealand. In the United States, the various legislations adopted include Equal Pay Act of 1963 which was effective in 1964, and the recently Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act signed this year (2009) by president Obama (Borgana, 2009). Women continue to face unfair treatment in the line of equality in pay even today.

The Gender Pay Gap

Women have been discriminated in terms of pay compared to their men colleagues. Even at equal education qualification, the pay gap between women and men worldwide was found to be in lesser favor for women to result in larger pay gap, in addition to denying women an equal treatment in handling the promotional opportunities lead to better pay and denial of maternity protection for women and parenting leave which both are entitled. The ITUC study report that was released on May 8 this year, the International Women’s Day, indicated that the pay gap, previously reported to be 16.5% by the official government figures, could be higher (the study reported a gap of 22.4% on average). According to the US statistics, gender pay disparity between men and women did not change in 2007 from the one experienced 2006.

This study, 300,000 women and men in 20 countries, also found out that union membership led to improved incomes for both gender and better pay for women relative to fellow men workers through collective agreement (International Trade Union Confederation). The explanation given for the lesser pay for women included subtle and overt discrimination of the latter against men, and the employers’ handling of promotions which leads to better pay as earlier on described, occupational segregation, high number of women being employed at positions below their education qualification and part-time work, which could be explained as the need to combine work and care responsibilities.

According to this report, the trend may be explained in consideration of the socio-cultural, gender-related and economic issues. Economic downturn has mostly affected women’s position in the labour market and especially those in countries of lesser economic power (Glenn, Simone, & Louisa, 2009). In addition to these factors, the internal and external structures of organizations and companies as concerns managerial and other policies need be given attention.

The aforementioned report has also linked violence against women as partly responsible for income difficulties experienced by women victims because they affect their physical and mental well-being which impact on their access to paid work. The report indicated that the pay gap widening with age could be explained by the tendency to link more senior roles with experience and skills. Women could also work for shorter period than men because of the care they offer to families. Specifically, the pay gaps was larger at both sides; i.e. the youngest and the oldest category of workers in UK and South Africa (Glenn, Simone, & Louisa, 2009).

In a study carried out to examine women perception of discrimination and inequality, preparedness and aspirations for upper management, women at all levels of management (executive, middle level and lower level) reported gender discrimination in terms of salary. In addition to salary issues, women at the management levels reported having fewer promotion opportunities than men. Although the increased pay gap with education level can be an indicator of discrimination at workplace in Denmark, Germany, Spain and Poland, occupational segregation may also be an appropriate explanation i.e. the type of work men and women do.

The pay gap was found by this report to be wider in the private than in the public sector but not always; with an exception of Finland, India and South Africa, where the public sector has a wider gap.

Little differences between men and women pay was found in the Republic of Korea and Mexico in both the public and private sector, and positive average or narrowest pay gaps being witnessed in the not-for-profit sector for instance in Russian Federation, the Republic of Korea and Hungary. According to report by Lebeau, the wage gap is as small as 2% for men and women who are aged 27 and 33 years and do not have children (2009). Women who return after getting children may fail to pick up and their salary would backslide along with benefits negatively impacting on the social security benefits.

The gender pay gap was found to be wider in regard to the time of work (full-time or part-time hours). The gap was influenced by the part-time employment which had generally low pay as seen in slimmer gender pay gap in the part-time working hours than full-time working hours.

Gender discrimination has also been extended on issues like additional compensation on top of the earned salary, as was found in a joint survey between the American Management Association and the BPW/USA that men were more likely to receive additional compensation beyond salary.


Although there are a number of legislations adopted in the workplace to influence the trend of favoring men against women in the history, there is need for further legislation and stringent measures which will completely deal with discrimination because there is evidence that women are discriminated along sexual, pay and other lines.


Women’s discrimination in the line of pay can be traced all the way from assumptions and views that they are supposed to stay at home and incompetent as compared to men. A number of legislations have been adopted to deal with this trend even in the recent times from 1960s.

Generally, gender-based pay gap disparity increases with the increase in age among employees, although this law has been broken in some scenarios like with UK and South Africa which had wider gaps among the youngest and the oldest population (Glenn, Simone, & Louisa, 2009). More recently, the pay gap between men and women has been indicated as possibly being higher than reported by official governmental figures (16.5%) as relates to 22.4%. The gap was also found to widen, generally with employees on full-time hours as compared to those on part-time arrangement, a rule broken in countries with many incidents of part-time working conditions. Other factors influencing the gap width includes educational level and work segregation. Generally, a wider gap was found in the private as compared to public sector.

Women are discriminated not only in the pay but also in chance to get other financial benefits attached to employment. Although there are a number legal measures adopted to deal with issues of gender-based pay equity, there is need for more legislation since the practice is still evident.


Borgana Brunner. (2009). The Wage Gap: A History of Pay Inequality and the Equity Pay Act. Web.

Council of Trade Unions. (2008). History of the pay equity campaign in New Zealand. Web.

Glenn Stephen, Melis Simone, & Withers Louisa. (2009). Gender (in) equality in the labor market: An overview of global trends and developments. International Trade Union Confederation and Incomes Data Services. Web.

International Trade Union Confederation. Web.

Lebeau Alysa. (2009). The New Workplace Woman-“Are we there yet? Business Woman. Web.

Shinew K.J., Anderson D.M., Arnold M.L. Perceptions of discrimination and inequity among professionals working in public recreation agencies: an extension of an earlier study. An Abstract. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. Sagamore Publishing. Web.