So men earn more than women but is it that simple? And is it legislation on equal pay that has narrowed the gap or is it actually due to the fact that as the computer has replaced many routine jobs previously carried out by women eg machine operators, calculating and book-keeping, this meant women moved into more highly paid analytical jobs?
When it comes to executive pay however, research at the University of Essex in the UK shows that “performance related pay” doesn’t seem to apply to women. Between 1998 and 2004 women’s bonuses stayed flat no matter how well the company did whilst men’s bonuses reflected strong company performance.
And research at Melbourne Business School shows that it is more important for women to appear likeable than competent when it comes to pay rises and promotions.
Professor Mara Olekains, who specialises in negotiating, said; “… the behaviour we normally associate with strong negotiators – competence – is also a male gender stereotype. When women increase their competitiveness by demonstrating that competence, they violate their gender stereotype” (that women should be more accommodating and relationship-focused).
She says in performance reviews women suffer a backlash if the negotiate harder because they lose on likeability and may be seen as pushy. She recommends that women should always try to score on likeability before they demonstrate their work competencies. (But see “It doesn’t pay to be too nice“)
Does it matter? A Swiss study showed that it wasn’t the pay gap that affected women’s satisfaction with life and work but whether or not the women’s community valued equal pay. Employed women in communities with traditional gender views and high wage differentials between men and women were more satisfied with life and work than women who worked in areas with smaller wage differentials but more emphasis in that community on equal pay.
And what about parenthood? According to research at the University of Houston using the 2000 census, in the USA having children tends to result in higher wages for men. And that’s whether they are straight, gay, married or in a partnership. Most mothers however earn less than childless women – unless they are lesbians. Gay women get an even greater advantage from having kids that men.
The researchers think this is because employers’ have a stereotyped view that lesbians will maintain a career trajectory like a man or a childless woman on returning to work. Whereas they think straight women’s competence drops when they have children.