The Gender Pay Gap

News Analysis: 

In the light of this weekend's resignation by BBC China editor Carrie Gracie the gender pay gap is once more in the spotlight.

The issue of the gender pay gap is more important than ever. In every country and every profession women are paid less for the work of the same value when compared to men. Despite substantial gains in reducing the gender pay gap the rate of progress has decreased in recent years and, in some cases, reversed. The gender pay gap is reported to have widened since 2006 from 92% to 95% globally.

Research shows that the wage gap starts from day one and grows continuously throughout women’s careers while the ‘narrowing’ of the pay gap when it happens is mostly confined to the early stages of women’s careers. The gender pay gap is growing especially in highly paid professions such as accountancy, law, consultancy and business, but even in ‘feminised’ sectors men tend to be over represented in top paid jobs.

The gender pay gap in the UK persists mainly because the growth in men’s earnings outstrips that of women at the top end of the earnings distribution.

Cultural assumptions stereotyping women as less willing or able and historical patterns reflecting men’s social power explain the persistent undervaluation of women’s work. Behavioural ethics research suggests that many such assumptions are due to unconscious bias that both women and men share.  

Power operates at a subconscious level and discrimination is often tacit and rationalised post-hoc. Unconscious bias, can in part, explain the propensity of many executives to hire in their own image which reproduces the lack of diversity on companies’ boards.

In organisations that adopt meritocratic policies, research has found that managers tend to favour a male over an equally qualified female employee and award him a larger monetary reward, perhaps because they no longer see the necessity to address the exiting inequalities or for the fear of discriminating against men.

Human resource departments have an important role to play in identifying and acknowledging such bias (via training) and addressing this in recruitment processes.

Making pay scales explicit could also have a major impact on transparency in promotion. Legislative protection is important, but we should not assume that a convergence in men’s and women’s earnings will automatically continue into the future without organisations taking proactive measures.

Faculty bio: 

Professor Marianna Fotaki is Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School. 

Marianna holds degrees in medicine, health economics, and a PhD in public policy from London School of Economics and Political Science. Before joining academia in 2003 she worked as a medical doctor in Greece, China, and the UK, and as a volunteer and manager for humanitarian organizations Médecins du Monde and Médecins sans Frontiers in Iraq and Albania, and as the EU senior resident adviser to governments in transition (in Russia, Georgia and Armenia). She was also a Network Fellow at the Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University in 2014-2015.

Further info: 

To find out more about Prof Fotaki and her research visit her bio page at WBS:

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