In your article ‘GMB union highlights gender pay divide in human resources’ (Personneltoday.com, 7 December 2007), the GMB attributes the gender pay gap to “institutional sex discrimination”. This assertion is at best dubious, because the presence of a pay gap is not evidence of discrimination alone.
Women do face barriers that cause them disadvantage, and while the gender pay gap may be unacceptable, it persists for a multitude of reasons. Some are due to differences in male and female choices and behaviours, and are therefore not discrimination.
Women place less emphasis on pay and status, focusing more on job satisfaction and working relationships. Research has found that women are less likely to negotiate a higher salary than men. The pay difference that arises from this is not as a result of unfavourable treatment of women employees.
Women also tend to gravitate towards roles with lower salaries. While they make these choices of their own volition, in some instances they are down to poor careers advice. There are many organisations that pay a higher salary for candidates with greater years of service. So women who take leave to raise children are obviously disadvantaged.
Discrimination is one of many factors responsible for the gender pay gap. It is irresponsible and erroneous to assert that the gap is entirely due to “institutional sex discrimination”. Even if discrimination is eliminated, a pay gap will still persist.