Wage Gender Disparities: Challenging Prevailing Assumptions, Theoretical Approaches

Book NYU LAW, Annual Conference on Labor 67th Edition

41 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2017 Last revised: 30 Mar 2019

See all articles by Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid

Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid

Yale Law School; ONO Academic College; Yale University - Information Society Project; Fordham University, School of Law

Date Written: July 30, 2015


Women in the United States are, on average and consistently, earning less than their male peers. Sometimes, they are even paid less than the men they supervise. A common response concerns about the 23 cent gender wage gap for full-time year-round workers across occupations, is that it is simply a byproduct of the choices women make: choices to prefer family life and needs, work fewer hours, take on lower-paying jobs, or opt out of the workforce for longer periods of time than men. Under this view, the gender pay gap is not a result of sex discrimination but of women's preferences. The gap between the average salaries of men versus women is attributed to female behavior, decision-making and women's preferences rather than to a pre-existing, biased structure. I argue that this assumption is at least partially wrong.

This paper offers a different perspective on gender analysis within the discourse about wage gender disparities. In this paper I argue that payment systems are neither neutral nor objective. Inspired by Schultz’s work, I contend that women’s preferences are in fact a result of the discrimination they face at workplaces and not the cause, as the common misconception posits. I further claim that this misinformed belief in women’s preferences is a concept commonly held by legislators and governmental policymakers as well as by employers, male and female workers, and the public in general. Furthermore, the reality of the gender pay gap causes women, as rational decision makers, to take other venues away from discriminating and segregated workplaces resulting in lower wages. In effect, women act rationally when adopting the gender pay gap rules of the game. If true opportunities were to appear more often, women might take them. Therefore, workplace norms, rather than women’s desire to avoid a full-time commitment to work, lead to a discriminative pay gap against women (as well as other excluded groups). Hidden mechanisms (“bricks” reinforcing the glass ceiling) have created a structure which has led to both establishing and perpetuating gender gaps in salary.

These main arguments are innovatively supported by three channels. First, by a theoretical approach explaining the narrow summit of the hierarchical structure of workplaces. Second, by comparing US data about gender pay gap with other countries. Third, by proving the perception false, relying on studies regarding (1) childless women who face unequal pay, (2) payment by the hour, (3) employer bias and stereotypes, (4) economic reasoning: budgeting on women’s backs and (5) the different behavior of women and men in workplaces: negotiating and working patterns.

The study may help eliminate gender pay gap, a mission which has not yet been achieved with the intensive existing regulation. We cannot fully understand and resolve the pay gap unless we understand the lack of true, decent and egalitarian opportunities that are accessible to women, enabling them to earn high salaries under good working conditions.

Keywords: Gender Pay Gap, Theoretical Approach

Suggested Citation

Yanisky-Ravid, Shlomit, Wage Gender Disparities: Challenging Prevailing Assumptions, Theoretical Approaches (July 30, 2015). Book NYU LAW, Annual Conference on Labor 67th Edition, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2957227 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2957227

Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

ONO Academic College ( email )

Tzahal Street 104
Kiryat Ono, 55000

Yale University - Information Society Project ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Fordham University, School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics