contrary, indications of a definite gender pay gap seem to persist. Wanzenreids (2008), for instance, conducted a large-scale study of 108,628 observations on 26,047 executives and 2,598 firms, between the years 1992 to 2003, and showed that women are working for smaller, less profitable firms than men and that female executives earn 14% less than their male colleagues. More so, the gender pay gap is higher towards the upper end of the pay distribution. As recently as 2002, women who worked more than thirty-five hours per week for fifty-two weeks per year earned only 78% as much as men (Giddens, Duneir, & Applebaum, 2003).

Most sociologists (e.g. Alksnis, Desmarais, & Curtis, 2008) seem to think that sexism is the determining factor for the differnce in gender wage, but it may just be that other, less innocuous, reasons may explain the disparity.

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These include (1) self-selection by women into female-dominated industries, which pay less (2) self-selection by women out of the workforce periodically (e.g., to raise children), which fragments their work history and thereby reduces their income potential and (3) men’s internalized status beliefs that makes them more likely to feel worthy of higher pay. Men, more assertive than women, are able to demand, and receive, the higher wages.

Wage Gap

As recently as 2002, it was discovered that women who worked full time year round (i.e. more than thirty-five hours per week for fifty-two-week per year) earned only 78% as much as men. Media and sociologists generally attribute the wage gap to gender typing and gender discrimination. Evidence seems to bear out these assumptions. England (1992), for instance, remarks that even: “after adjusting for cognitive, social, and physical skill demands, amenities, demands for effort, and industrial and organization characteristics, jobs pay less if they contain a higher proportion of females.”

Sex segregation also seems to play a part. Men and women are clustered into different occupations, which, although sometimes seemingly similar, pay highly disparate wages, with the male inevitably receiving the higher wage. A male garbage collector for instance is generally paid 3 times as much as a female nurse.

Although the Equal Pay Act was established in 1963, pay differences between genders persist. The problem is that the Equal Pay Act requires employers to provide equal pay to workers in the same job, but men and women often do not work at the same jobs explaining reason for the large wage gap. Nonetheless, studies show that even when men and women are in the same job, men are still paid more (Giddens et al., 2003).

The size of the gap has definitely diminished over time, but the female-male difference continues to be substantial for full-time, year round workers in America. Whist the gap persists in almost all fields, there does seem to be a lessening of the wage gap in certain fields such as in education and nursing. Moreover, this gap seems to b e reducing with the passing of years. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2005, 53% of Americans believe that women have achieved equality in the workplace, and theories point to diverse other reasons for wage gap aside from sexual discrimination.

One of these reasons, for instance, is the fact that women tend to take different courses in high school and college, based upon their perceived role in life, and this is particularly true of middle-aged and older women. Researchers find that there are still a sizable amount of women who prefer to stay home and raise their children. Were these females to decide to later reenter the workforce, their work experiences have suffered in the meantime naturally resulting in lower pay and career opportunities.

Aside from this situation, women seem to tend towards different jobs and careers than men do preferring jobs that pay less. Not, of course, choosing these jobs because they pay less but choosing them because they happen, generally, to be more nurturing or less conflictual. It just happens to be that these chosen professions pay less than those that males select aside from which, the professions that males select are often more time-consuming and demanding than those that women, occupied with other duties, select.

The entire issue could also be reduced different gender perspectives about deserving higher pay. Men, it seems, seem to consider themselves entitled to a higher pay range than women consider themselves entitled to (Hogue, Joder, & Singleton, 2007). In this case, therefore, it is men who, generally, demand and receive the higher wages and rise whilst women, generally less assertive and with lower self-esteem, settle for the depressed wage.


Although many tend to point to the gendered wage gap as evidence of gender discrimination in the United States, evidence that this is so may not be so clear. After all, association is not causation and other reasons may point to causality for phenomenon. Some of these possible reasons include the fact that women tend to choose lower paying jobs in preference for home and family, as well as the fact that the choice of professions reflects corresponding pay. Women tend to prefer more nurturing professions than male do; these happen to be lower-paid. Furthermore, men tend to be more aggressive and competitive by nature, therefore demanding higher pay, whereas women tend to settle for the more depressed wage. Housework and domestic duties also disrupt vocational growth, thereby impeding wage.

The gendered wage gap persists. Reasons for its existence are, however, not so clear and cannot always be demoted to prejudice.


Alksnis, C., Desmarais, S., & Curtis, J. (2008), Workforce segregation and the gender wage gap, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1416-1441.

Giddens, A., Duneir, M. & Applebaum, R. (2003) Introduction to Sociology, London: Norton & Co.

Wanzenreid, G. (2004). How feminine is corporate America? J. Econ. Inequal, 6, 185-209.