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Gender wage gap

Gender Wage Gap

As the graduation approaches, most students prepare for the life in so called "real world". They are searching for the job, with hope to find what they desire; well-paid job for which they are best qualified. It is assumed that degree of qualification affects the degree of pay, however there are other aspects that have as much effect on the amount earned. One of these aspects is gender. So, even in the year 2001, chances are that I as a female graduate will make less money than the next male graduate whose grade point average was considerably lower than mine. To this day wage gap in gender is present in Canada, but fortunately it is decreasing with time.

Woman’s work has always been under appreciated and woman’s capability was hardly ever recognized. It wasn’t until the beginning of 1900s that women joined paid work forces. Ever since than, women have been fighting for equal wages. The average wage rate for female workers has been below that for male workers for as long as statistics have been recorded. "In 1930,on average women earned about 53% of what men earned in Canada" (Altman and Lamontagne 3). However, in recent years, female wages have been approximately equal to 3/4 of the level of male wages.

No one seriously disputes the existence of a gender wage differential. The disagreement primarily focuses on the cause of the wage differential. Is it the result of gender discrimination? Or is it the result of differences in other characteristics that are correlated with gender? " A study by Jacob Mincer and Solomon Polachek indicates that much of the gender wage difference is the result of differences in educational attainment and work experience. Erica Groshen and others have found that most of the remaining gender wage differential can be explained by differences in occupational choice" (Mackie 259).

"Thus, the empirical evidence indicates that most (or all) of the male-female wage differential is due to gender-related differences in occupational choice, educational attainment, and prior work experience" (Armstrong and Armstrong 275). Some may argue that the male-female wage differential is not a symptom of discrimination and suggest that this difference is the result of voluntary decisions on the part of individuals in selecting their careers, educational attainment, and the level and timing of labor force participation. However, those who believe that the gender wage differential is due to discrimination argue that discrimination affects women's choice of careers, educational attainment, and labor supply decisions.

One of the main reasons for the male-female wage differential is that those occupations that are disproportionately filled by women tend to be relatively low-paying occupations while male-dominated occupations tend to offer high wages. Most secretaries, nurses, and elementary school teachers are women while most engineers, surgeons, computer programmers, and chemists are men. " The ‘crowding’ hypothesis suggests that the low wages received by women in these occupations is due to a relatively large supply of labor in these female-dominated occupations" (McLaren 125). If women voluntarily select these low-paid occupations then the lower wage is the result of voluntary choice, not discrimination. This part of the wage differential is the result of discrimination, though, if women are crowded into these occupations as a result of barriers to their entry into higher-paying male-dominated professions. It is expected, however, that as the proportion of women in male-dominated occupations continues to increase, the wage differential is likely to narrow.

While there are substantially more women than males in college today, this is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. " Until the past 20 years, the proportion of women attending college was substantially less than the proportion of males attending college" (Altman and Lamontage 10). While the educational attainment of young male and female workers is quite similar today, older women in the labor force have lower levels of educational attainment than older males. Part of the wage differential is due to the lower average level of educational attainment for women. It is expected that this portion of the wage differential will narrow over time as more highly educated women enter the labor market and older women retire.

"Until the 1980s, most women withdrew from the labor force for a few years after the commencement of childbearing" (Mackie 142). Today, most women with young children remain in the labor force. A typical woman in the labor force, though, still has fewer years of prior work experience than a typical male. Since earnings are strongly related to prior work experience, differences in work experience explain part of the gender wage gap. " It is expected that this part of the wage differential will decline over time due to declining fertility rates over the past few decades and the more continuous labor force attachment of younger female workers" (Mackie 145).

Those who argue that the wage differential is the result of discrimination argue that women are more likely to withdraw from the labor force because they have less to lose by leaving. Lower wages and reduced chances of promotion lower the incentives of women to remain in the labor force. This argument suggests that the causality between work experience and wages is bi-directional. While lower female wages may be partly due to lower levels of work experience, these lower levels of work experience are also partly caused by lower female wages.

Those who believe that the male-female wage differential is the result of labor market discrimination may " suggest that a ‘comparable worth’ pay structure be introduced to eliminate the gender wage gap" (McLaren 129). "Under a comparable worth pay system, jobs are rated according using a number of criteria such as: educational requirements, manual dexterity requirements, job stress, risk of injuries, etc" (McLaren157). Jobs that have similar ratings are assigned the same pay. Advocates of such a system suggest that this system results in equal pay for equivalent work. Some studies, for example, have suggested that secretaries and truck drivers are ‘comparable’ jobs. Both involve long periods of sitting, similar amounts of training, and repetitive tasks. Therefore, it is argued, the pay of secretaries (a female-dominated occupation) should be equal to the pay of truck drivers (a male-dominated occupation).

Opponents of comparable worth pay structures argue that the lower wage rate for secretaries is the result of ‘crowding’ in this labor market. Higher pay rates would encourage more people to enter an occupation in which wages were initially low because there were already too many workers in this labor market. A reduction in the pay rate for truck drivers would cause fewer people to enter an occupation in which pay is initially high because there are relatively few people willing to work in this occupation. Those who oppose comparable worth pay structures argue that they would result in economic inefficiency by causing surpluses in labor markets in which pay is raised and shortages in those labor markets in which pay is lowered.

While there are several reasons to believe that the gender wage gap will be reduced in the future, this wage gap remains relatively large. As long as this gap remains, this issue is likely to provide a major source of debate among economists, policymakers, and the general public. If this gap remains by the time I graduate and the male graduate with lower GPA than mine gets paid more that I do, this issue will be solved: it will be proved that wage differentiation is based on gender discrimination. I hope it is not the case.


Altman, Morris and Lamontagne, Louise. " Gender Pay Inequality and Occupational Change in Canada". Journal of Socio-Economics, 1996, Vol.25 Issue 3, p286-321.

Armstrong, Hugh and Armstrong, Pat. " Women’s Work in the Labour Force". Creating a Canadian Women’s Sociology, 1998, Vol.8, Issue 1, p275-312.

Kovach, Kenneth. " An Overview and Assessment of Comparable Worth Based on a Large Scale Implementation". Public Personal Management, 1997, Vol.26 Issue 1, p109-127.

Mackie, Marlene. Exploring Gender Relations. Butterworth & Co., Canada (1983)

Mangan, Marshall and Livingstone, David. Recast Dreams. University of Toronto, OT (1995)

McLaren, Arlene. Gender and Society. Mississauga, Ontario (1998)

Warren, Clark. "Economic Gender Equality Indicators 2000" Canadian Social Trends, 2001, p.1-8.

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