Women continue to consistently earn less than men in the workplace, about 20% less according to research. But is the difference solely because of discriminatory hiring processes and work environments? Or because women choose certain professions more than others and those tend to be lower paid?
Two researchers, Matthew Bidwell and Roxana Barbulescu, recently took a closer look.
"What they found, says Barbulescu, an assistant professor at McGill University in Montreal, was surprising. "When women seek to have the same opportunities, there are some barriers that they themselves see, whereas other people -- men, for example -- may not perceive."
Their results, she says, suggest that it's not necessarily the hiring process itself that leads to issues of discrimination, that in fact many legislative changes have had a positive impact on these issues. Instead, she suggests, companies need to be taking a larger look at what's happening and see what else about their companies may be keeping women from applying.
What are the workplace cultures in place? What is the culture like? How do women perceive the organization and do they see themselves fitting into the company?
These results, says Alan Johnson, managing director of Johnson Associates, a New York-based compensation consulting firm that caters to Wall Street and investment-banking firms, are "actually quite consistent" with other academic studies done in the past.
"The majors that people choose or the lifestyle choices that people make, economically, for a long time have been found to be huge factors in the differences of pay," he says. "I think the difference for society is that that doesn't feel fair, necessarily, but it is kind of the economic outcome."
At an individual level, however, there's not a lot that can be done to remedy the inequities on a broad scale, other than to have individuals become aware that the choices they make -- in terms of where they go to school, what majors they pursue, and what types of occupations and industries they are drawn -- to will have an impact on their overall earning power, he says.
Employers, though, can and should be taking steps to both ensure that their pay is equitable internally and that they are taking steps to recruit, attract and retain employees not only regardless of gender, but regardless of sexual orientation, veteran status and other protected classes."
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