If this were the case then the provisions of the Equal Pay Act might be of some assistance, although women's lower rates of payment might be explained by reference to factors such as age/work experience/seniority within the workplace or concentration in lower grades which might (but might not) be discrimination-free. Alternatively, women might be doing the same jobs as men, but doing them in female workplaces, with the effect that no comparison would be possible under the Equal Pay Act" (p. 215).
Essentially, what McColgan (1997) is implying is that there could be logical reasons for women earning fewer cents on the dollar than men, most of which have to do with women having spent less time in the workforce than men. While this logic might have applied in much of the last half of the twentieth century, our current generation has long passed the era when women were primarily housewives and mothers. Most women in the workforce have just as much experience as men, which seems to imply that if women are paid less for the same work, it is because they are not respected as much as men are, and their work is not valued equally. This is a problem rooted in gender discrimination, and it is an HR manager's job to work to reduce this type of discrimination by altering attitudes. This does not mean that HR managers are responsible for changing the way people think, however it is the HR manager's responsibility to ensure that training programs promoting respect for diversity are made an integral part of the company culture.
Times have changed significantly since the 1963 pay act was passed by President John F. Kennedy. As Nancy Pelosi recently pointed out, today "equal pay is not simply a women's issue, but a family issue. The wage gap hurts everyone -- husbands, wives, children, and parents -- because it lowers family incomes that pay for essentials: groceries, doctors' visits, child care. When women earn more, an entire family benefits. Furthermore, 41% of women are their families' sole source of income."
Because women are such an integral part of the modern workforce, and minorities are as well, it simply does not make sense to blame the wage gap on "reasonable" explanations. There is no reasonable explanation -- the fact is that women and minorities make less than white males because they are being treated unfairly due to preconceived ideas and prejudices. In a sense, this is related to what Merton called the self-fulfilling prophecy, which described as "a false definition of the situation, evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true" (Merton, 1948, p. 195). Both men and women have been taught to believe that women are worth less, so it is a self-fulfilling prophecy when they accept being paid less.
In order to compete in the modern business environment, a company must critically examine its functions and practices, and subsequently develop more effective ways to not only obtain the best employees, but to maintain their loyalty and commitment to the success of the organization. Human Resource Managers need to facilitate the development of a positive work environment in which teamwork and success can flourish in an era of diversity (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2009). However in order for this to happen, people need to be treated fairly; and that means (among other things) receiving the same pay for the same work, regardless of race or gender.
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Harvey C. & Allard, J.M. (2005). Understanding and managing diversity: readings, cases and exercises, 3rd Edition. Prentice Hall, New Jersey
Lengnick-Hall, M.L., Lengnick-Hall, C.A., Andrade, L.S. & Drake, B. (2009), Strategic human resource management: the evolution of the field, Human Resource Management Review,19(2),64-85.
Maslow, a., (1970) Motivation and personality, 2nd ed., Harper & Row
McColgan, a. (1997) Just wages for women, Clarendon Press, digitized 2008, Google Books.
Merton, R.K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy. Antioch Review, 8, 193-210.