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Cultural question of wage discrepancies between professional women and men

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Sarah s.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Qualifications
  3. The postulate
  4. Unequal wages for equal work
  5. Conclusion

Women earn, on average, 20% less than what men earn in North America. It was not until 1920, across North America, that women were given the right to vote. Today, more women than men are enrolled in professional post degree programs in Canada and the United States. Today, women comprise 46% of the workforce in America and 48% of the workforce in Canada (Burgess and Tharenou 2002, 39). A generous estimate is that women still earn only 80% of the salary that men earn, when women have equal or higher academic qualifications, equal or greater experience and have dedicated equal or greater time to the position; (this number varies from state to state and from province to province).

The discrepancy between wages for men and women is well documented throughout Western countries (Marini and Fan 1997, 588). Although the problem has long been an issue for developed nations equality in wages has not been established. Much attention has been paid to this issue as it relates to the larger cultural issues of gender rights, but there is a singular point of study that can be conducted regarding the wage issue specifically. Wages can be studied as a component of cultural psychology and the results can be measured, independent of this issue's impact within the larger question of gender rights.

Qualifications for this study are as follows: women who are university educated, with equal years of employment experience, in the same role or in a comparable role are paid, on average 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. These figures are consistent across developed nations, which evidently pride itself on having equal civil and voting rights for both men and women. The nations have thriving business and industrial sectors and the percentage of unemployed workers in each of these nations is low (10% or below). For the purpose of this study, the specific region analyzed will be limited to North America, which will allow the study to gain more specificity in terms of response rates and data accuracy. It should be noted, however, that this cultural psychological issue holds very real consistencies across most developed Western nations. Similar data has been presented in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France and other economic and social members of the European Union (Blau and Kahn 1996, S29).

[...] The postulate for my research would be to pose the question of if this discrepancy in wages is inherent amongst men and women in terms of what they expect from their professional lives and what they have come to expect as the reality of their pay scale. It is my working theory that women are enraged by this form of continued discrimination, but that they also accept that there are certain areas in which they will never be considered equal to a man; appropriate compensation being one of the areas where a systematic self-imposed cultural difference still exists. [...]


[...] There is existing data to support the hypothesis that women achieve less professional success than men, which is why they do not occupy senior level positions with the same frequency that men do (Burgess and Tharenou 2002, 40). Ultimately, my study would investigate if this knowledge is rooted in women to the point where they do not strive for success with the same vigor that men do. A study on this topic is necessary because continued attention needs to be paid to cultural differences that have been seemingly solved. [...]

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