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Question: it seems logical men and women with comparable credentials comparable...

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It seems logical. Men and women with comparable credentials, comparable experience, and comparable performance ratings performing the same tasks should make comparable pay, right? But while it may seem logical, in reality, men tend to make more than women even when there are no obvious reasons for the discrepancy. For instance, one recent study found an annual pay gap of $20,000 between comparably qualified professional men and women in the millennial generation. U.S. government statistics also report that, in general, women earn around 78 percent of what men earn for performing the same or similar jobs. This pattern is not new. In fact, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 broadly outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender in any aspect of the employment relationship (which obviously includes pay), and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 specifically stipulates that organizations must pay the same wages to men and women who are doing equal work. (Note, however, that both laws allow unequal pay if the basis for the differences are experience, performance, or other job-related factors.) The question, then, is why, after more than fifty years of legislation outlawing disparate pay and widespread social awareness of this pattern, do such discrepancies still exist today? For years, experts attributed the problem to two things. First, some organizations have continued to practice outright discrimination. Some managers, for instance, either intentionally or unconsciously, may tend to reward men more if they are seen as the family “breadwinner” and reward women less if they are seen as providing only “secondary income.” Obviously, this practice is illegal (and unethical) and can be grounds for legal action. Another long-standing explanation is the so-called “mommy track” phenomenon. The premise here is that even if women and men start out the same, many women step away from their careers for periods ranging from a few months to as long as several years in order to have children. Even among families where both parents have careers, it is still more likely for a woman to make career sacrifices for the sake of family than it is for a man. Simplistically, if a woman suspends her career for, say, three years to start a family and then resumes her career, she has fallen three years behind her male peers in promotion opportunities and salary increases and may never catch up. Recently, however, experts have come to believe that several other factors also play a role in the income gap. For one thing, men are often more aggressive when they are first negotiating for a job. As a result, their initial salaries may be higher than their female counterparts. For another, this aggressiveness continues as men tend to ask for larger and more frequent salary adjustments than do their women peers. Hence, men may tend to start at a higher salary and then see their salaries grow faster than is the case for women. Extending these ideas to a broader context, some evidence suggests that people tend to see aggressiveness and assertiveness positively in men but negatively in women. These positive or negative feelings can then easily translate into “likability.” Likability, in turn, can then unconsciously begin to play a role in other elements of the employment relationship, including promotions, opportunities for careerenhancing assignments, and so forth. None of these explanations make it acceptable for a man to earn more than a woman, of course, but they do point to the need for complex and in-depth solutions.


1. Suppose you offer a woman a job for $80,000, and she accepts it. You then offer a similar job to a man for $80,000. He demands $85,000, and you agree to pay him that amount. Should you now go back and adjust the woman’s salary? Why or why not?

2. Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels Group has a policy that half of all management positions must be filled by women. Do you agree or disagree with this kind of policy? Why?

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