The Gender Pay Gap

Salary negotiations are critical to everyone going through the recruitment process. They not only determine the actual pay executives take home at the end of the month and the perks that come with the job; they also build a person’s confidence, self-worth and social position.

Although this fact is true for both men and women, many women executives complain they don’t get paid as well as their male counterparts do. They say that women aren’t good negotiators of their own compensation packages during job interviews because they lack the aggression men have. In the process, they compromise on their earnings while putting in the same effort at work.

Whether this notion of natural male aggression during job interviews (as opposed to a softer feminine approach) garners higher pays for men can be proven or not, the outcome seems to be accurate. It seems to be true that men, in general, attract higher pay than women.

According to a September 2013 Times of India article tiled Single or married, women get paid less than men: IIM survey“Women get less pay than men even in the formal sector, not because they are less qualified but simply because they may get married and are, therefore, potential mothers.”

The Times of India article substantiates this further, stating: “The fair sex is often disadvantaged in access to employment opportunities and conditions of work, and the survey tries to quantify the magnitude of gender disparities.

The survey finds that the gender gap in pay is the highest in Assam, Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, with women’s earning in these states being 64%, 59%, 50% and 47% less respectively. Delhi has the lowest gender gap in pay with females earning only 20% less than males, followed by Sikkim and Chattisgarh where women earn 23% less than men.

For all other states, the pay gap ranges from 25% to 44%. Zone-wise analysis of data for the whole country shows that the north zone has the smallest gender gap in pay (of 30.50%) whereas the west zone has the highest gender gap of 47%.”

This thought not only resonates faithfully across India, but also across the largest ‘equal employment opportunity’ market in the world: the United States of America. In the United States, men (still) make more money than women.

This fact was announced by President Barack Obama on 28 January 2014 during his State of the Union address. President Obama said: “You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.”

At the moment, in response to this claim by President Obama, there’s a debate raging in the United States. Different schools of thought are presenting different sets of statistics, based on different logic and methods in defining the problem of the gender pay gap. That is, of course, if there is one. According to the websitewww.politifact.com“there’s a range of professional opinion on what the data shows.”

In an article titled Barack Obama, in State of the Union, says women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, PolitiFact.com explains:

“First, there’s a significant variation in wage gaps from occupation to occupation.

Second, it’s important to note that the existence of a pay gap doesn’t necessarily mean that the gap is caused by individual employer-level discrimination. Rather, some portion is likely the result of broader demographic patterns.

For instance, men and women historically enter certain fields more than others – a phenomenon known as “occupational segregation.” Women more often choose to be receptionists, nurses and teachers, while men pursue paths as truck drivers, managers and computer software engineers (quoting the Institute for Women’s Policy Research).

In addition, women disproportionately obtain degrees that lead to lower-paying jobs than men, and they take more time off from work for pregnancy and child care… Despite the growth in fathers’ role in child care, the child-care burden shouldered by women tends to restrict their career options and hours worked.”

Another website www.TheDailyBeast.com disagrees.

In an article titled No, Women Don’t Make Less Money Than Men, TheDailyBeast.com says: “It’s the bogus statistic that won’t die—and president deployed it during the State of the Union—but women do not make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns.”

The article explains:

“What is wrong and embarrassing is the President of the United States reciting a massively discredited factoid. The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. And no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers.

Consider, for example, how men and women differ in their college majors. Here is a list (PDF) of the ten most remunerative majors compiled by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Men overwhelmingly outnumber women in all but one of them:

  • Petroleum Engineering: 87% male
  • Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48% male
  • Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% male
  • Aerospace Engineering: 88% male
  • Chemical Engineering: 72% male
  • Electrical Engineering: 89% male
  • Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% male
  • Mechanical Engineering: 90% male
  • Metallurgical Engineering: 83% male
  • Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% male

And here are the 10 least remunerative majors—where women prevail in nine out of ten:

  • Counseling Psychology: 74% female
  • Early Childhood Education: 97% female
  • Theology and Religious Vocations: 34% female
  • Human Services and Community Organization: 81% female
  • Social Work: 88% female
  • Drama and Theater Arts: 60% female
  • Studio Arts: 66% female
  • Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% female
  • Visual and Performing Arts: 77% female
  • Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: 55% female

Much of the wage gap can be explained away by simply taking account of college majors. Early childhood educators and social workers can expect to earn around $36,000 and $39,000, respectively. By contrast, petroleum engineering and metallurgy degrees promise median earnings of $120,000 and $80,000. Not many aspiring early childhood educators would change course once they learn they can earn more in metallurgy or mining. The sexes, taken as a group, are somewhat different. Women, far more than men, appear to be drawn to jobs in the caring professions; and men are more likely to turn up in people-free zones. In the pursuit of happiness, men and women appear to take different paths.”

Although the US economy and its employment statistics are not representative of India, industry reports suggest that, on average, Indian women executives draw lower compensation packages compared to their male counterparts. This is indeed a sensitive issue and requires tactful handling during the recruitment process.

Globally, executive search firms are trying to mitigate this issue by encouraging their clients to value gender diversity in their organizations and to welcome senior women executives on their boards. The going is not easy as this means challenging long-held beliefs by and within a male dominated universe. In India, the government is helping the transformation by a revised Companies Act which now mandates at least one woman member on the company’s board of all publically listed companies.


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