gender-based wage disparities still reflect serious issues of concern (Hirsch 2008). Major disparities remain for women. A 2008 article captured a good deal of interest with its simple declaration that "Across-the-board figures from February this year indicate that full-time female employees earned an average $1,004 a week compared to fulltime male average weekly earnings of $1,190" (The Lamp). Others too have sought to use drama as a way of heightening the reality of some of the disparities. Noting that for those who earn upwards of $1,000,000 annually the ratio of men to women is 13:1 is as profound a comment as is the fact that income equality doesn't even begin to appear until one looks at earnings of about $25,000 and $30,000 (Lips, 2003, pp. 87).
Baron and Cobb-Clark (2009, pp. 229) express concern that, as they put it, "Forty years after the 1969 Equal Pay Case there continues to be a substantial gap in the wages of Australian men and women." This was in part why Kee (2006) picked up on the most descriptive of conditions that reflect how the nation and Australia have both "sticky floors" and "glass ceilings." Sticky floors prevent those near the bottom from overcoming obstacles to pull themselves up, and glass ceilings very much limit the ability of some to achieve their highest potential, even if they have the drive and talent to do so.
The reasons why the disparities exist can be complex, often overlapping on many fronts. New conceptualizations have helped to clarify this from two rather distinct viewpoints, which I will focus on here. One centers on the controversial classification of occupational segregation and the idea that some people (usually assumed to be women) choose certain professions that simply pay or reward worse than do others. But the second turns more inward toward the psychology and even biosocial factors that in some way contribute to the forming of the personality of the workers, which in its own way is seen as being different for men and women. A brief of the Occupational Segregation and Psychological Personality explanations is reviewed to demonstrate why their differences are more important in view of how women are becoming more important in the global universe of wage earners.
OCCUPATIONAL SEGREGATION: Kee (2006, pp. 424) has simplified the issue of wage and gender earning gaps as being that "Both labour market demand and supply side factors might be relevant." Others, like Hirsch (2008), went into more detail as he walked step-by-step through a summation of much of the work in the field. He begins by disputing the claim that there really is an expectation that people will ever earn a "one price" wage (Hirsch, 2008, pp. 916). People got paid what they do because of all types of conditions. To comprehend this, he suggests, it is necessary to dig deeper now that the data can be more precisely analyzed and thus the results do not have to be so closely associated with past, often male-oriented assumptions: "Census imputation methods, union premiums, product market regulation, wages in male and female jobs, the wage effects of military service, and inter-area wages and cost of living" (Hirsch, 2008, pp. 915). Science has proven that these factors are important; they actually explain some portion of the relationships between themselves and other earning variables. But even so, they still explain together just a portion of the big picture of what makes for wage and earning gaps (Cobb-Clark & Tan, 2010, pp. 2). The unexplained parts could be the result of outright discrimination or even of historically biases ways of using data to favor men and imprecise ideas. (Kee, 2006, pp. 424). It could well be the case that jobs that women do tend to be more prevalent in are not as carefully monitored so that it might not be possible to know what precisely is happening in regards to wages and earnings -- something that has helped bring about deeper re-assessments of their groundings (Coelli, 2011; Watts, 2004)).
Studies on occupational segregation seem to suggest that if women were not forced to do otherwise they would, like men, be able to better position themselves in jobs that would earn more or perhaps valued more (Bertrand, 2010, pp. 1547). Though somewhat simplistic, this is consistent with other assumptions aimed at examining the impact of gender-wage disparities and globalization (Oostendorp, 2009). The virtual shrinking of the world brought about by our technological connectivity should allow women to be able to find more types of work and command better pay and benefits. Such a set of circumstances would bring about an equalizing of wages and otherwise put women in the position of being able to claim more of their worth (Oostendorp, 2009, pp. 142).
Kee's (2006, pp. 409) study was directly designed to test whether the sticky floor or the glass ceiling exists in regards to employment and earnings in the public sector. What was uncovered was that there was indeed a wage gap for lower-earning (and thus more segregated) public sector employees that cannot be explained by educational qualifications or other demographics alone. In Australia, the case seems to be clear that occupational differences do have an important impact (Coelli, 2011, pp. 27). Experience outside of government seems to be important for the wage levels of lower earners. Then again, occupational segregation associated with part-time work, casual work, union membership, etc., does not seem to comport with studies elsewhere that suggest women are hurt in their earnings (Baron & Cobb-Clark, 2009). Australians often receive some premium benefits when they work in these types of positions (Baron & Cobb-Clark, 2009, pp. 241). The fact that public sector employees are aware of this might be serving to inspire a sense of testimony that changes in laws to end discrimination might actually be working, in the same way that scientific improvements are better dealing with the ways in which data is collected to be less bias against women (Lips, 203, pp. 90).
The Psychology of Personality & Wages: A second perspective about the existence of the gap originates from within a more specialized segment of investigation that is also looking deeper into its data. This new conceptualization looks specifically at more in-depth psychological and socio-psychological (and possibly even biological) considerations that have also been improved through scientific advancements (Bertrand, 2010, pp. 1547). Nyhus and Pons (2012) provide an exceptional representation of this through their search for personality factors that they believe can be tied to the earnings gap. They very much want to "disentangle" which parts of the unexplained causal relationship that they believe have their origins in the evolutionary forces of reproductive advantage. They note that single women tend to have more concerns about wage parity than those who are parents or married (Nyhus & Pons, 2012, pp. 106). This type of viewpoint, they then note, is supported by a growing body of evidence from within other scientific fields, including psychology, biology, and anthropology. They even explore how neurochemical evolutionary factors are beginning to suggest that there may well be certain "utility functions" that can be understood as having direct impacts on earning potentials (Nyhus & Pons, 2012, pp. 106). The new look by Bertrand (2010) and others are efforts to dig much deeper into this so as to go toward more than just competition and male-associated work activities. Motherhood, caring and nurturing it can be said have their own values that are often underappreciated and that need to be more fully understood as the sciences get better.
The "big five" personality classifications, each of which has received its own level of scientific validation, are those relating to whether a person has an internal or external locus of control, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness and even one's openness to life's experience (Nyhus & Pons, 2012, pp. 107). These types of classifications have a major impact on whether people look to the future or to the past, something that may well be instrumental in how they succeed or advance in a work setting. While in the past many psychological constructs have been seen as stereotypical considerations of gender inadequacy, the researchers are now looking more to how such characteristics impact decisions such as when and why people accept incentives. The big five characteristics have been specifically aligned with how people learn to get ahead in business, and for the most part the assumption is that men are generally better at this than are women (Nyhus & Pons, 2012, 109).
There is no question but that the majority of studies on the gender wage gap tend to look at structural issues that cover a broad range of issues as they seek to explore their connection to earnings mistreatments or even discrimination. But as scientists have begun digging deeper into the data that is available, they are gaining confidence that more can be learned. They are also seeing how certain past assumptions, such as the belief that occupational segregation is always harmful to those that it keeps away…