Separate and Unequal-Women and the Gender Wage Gap (2/10)

Source: Peterson, Trond and Laurie A. Morgan, “Separate and Unequal: Occupational-Establishment Sex Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap.” American Journal of Sociology Vol. 101, No. 2 (Sep., 1995): pg. 329-365. Read Online


Women have fought for their rights for centuries. And now, women of the 21st Century fight for equal pay. Though there are many labor laws that protect women, there is still a significant gap in what women are paid as compared to men. And yet, women are still doing the same jobs as men. So if men and women are truly equal, why aren’t we paid that way?

To open my discussion of Women and the Gender Wage Gap, we will open with an essay by Trond Petersen and Laurie A. Morgan. Petersen is a professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley and focuses on social inequality. Morgan is a professor of Technology and Operations and Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan. Morgan has also served as Associate Director at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender. By using this article, we can gain a new lens on the issue of the Gender Wage Gap. This article approaches the issue from a sociology standpoint that tracks the development and modern understanding of the wage gap.

Petersen and Morgan’s article directly analyzes the role of work segregation within the gender wage gap . In fact, the authors’ main thesis is that the wage gap is generally small, but with the development of occupation-establishment segregation, the wage gap is exacerbated. Wage differences are small without looking into specific level characteristics. Therefore, occupation-based segregation is actually the problem. This means that as employers and women’s wage activists, we should take the responsibility to reduce segregation within the workforce and encourage women to pursue “masculine” careers and aim for higher levels of workplace authority.

Petersen and Morgan begin their article by identifying that women have lower wages for three reasons (on average). 1-Allocative Discrimination: Women are allocated to occupations and establishments that naturally have lower jobs. 2-Valuative Discrimination: Occupations held by women (though they require the same skill training as male occupations) are lower paying. 3-Within-Job Wage Discrimination: Women receive lower wages within a given occupation or establishment. However, these women, “in most cases simply do not share the same jobs.” As a result, women do experience a gender wage gap, but it is often related to the types of jobs they are entering (For example: If we compare the teaching profession, which is majority female, with a higher paying job like business finance, which is majority male, it is clear that these women would be paid less).

Next Petersen and Morgan entered analysis of two specific studies that paint a clearer picture of the gender wage gap. These two studies will show the wage gap differences between both blue-collared work and the administrative workforce. By applying both of these studies, the history of the wage gap is apparent. Blue collar work has a history of wage discrimination (think of women during World War II). In modern society, more and more women are coming into the administrative workforce (although they also worked there historically) and the wage gap seems more apparent here. So by studying both groups, we gain a better understanding of how history has impacted the wage gap and how we see it today.

The Industry of Wage Surveys (IWS) was conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) between 1947 and 1983. These surveys specifically studied “blue-collard, clerical and some technical jobs.” According to the IWS, women, on average, earned about a dollar less then men on a hourly salary. Women working on a weekly salary earned more than a hundred less per week than their male counterparts. But these differences can only be accounted for by occupational sex segregation. In fact, Peterson and Morgan identify that “segregation alone accounts for 64% of the wage gap.” The authors also make a concession that women also have a tendency to work fewer overtime hours, which may explain some of the wage gap.

Evidence from the second study provides backup to the theory proposed by the IWS that women earn about a dollar less than men on average. The second set of data comes from the National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical and Clerical (PATC) employees. This survey was also conducted by the BLS. In this study, the BLS ranked employees into hierarchy of positions. According to this data, “In each of the 16 industries, 50% or more of the occupations were integrated,” showing that occupation-by-rank-establishment is low, meaning that people within an organization earn the same amount by rank regardless of gender. Petersen and Morgan imply that this study truly means that in places where the workforce is sex integrated, the wage gap is markedly lower (for examples, please see article). This study shows that as rank in employment increases, the number of females in that rank decreases exponentially.

Women in the work place have been placed in lower paying jobs and receive, on average, smaller wages. The studies analyzed by Petersen and Morgan opened my eyes into how workforce segregation has generated a wage gap itself. Because women have been placed in lower paid jobs by social expectations of femininity, their odds at correcting the wage gap are disheartening. Societal roles of femininity claim that women belong in jobs that don’t take away from time with the family and that they should be jobs in which women can practice childcare and homemaking (think teaching). Therefore, women correcting this wage gap may prove difficult because society doesn’t often change overnight. The wage gap has been around from the beginning of time, but continues to better through time. That being said, it is still largely present today. I have seen in my own employment that women are paid closer to ‘male wages’ as the number of women working in ‘male positions’ increases. It is true that women have a better chance at equal pay in a desegregated workplace. As seen from Petersen’s and Morgan’s analysis of these two studies, in work places where the male to female ratio is equal, women are paid the same as men.


2 thoughts on “Separate and Unequal-Women and the Gender Wage Gap (2/10)

  1. You talk about women being paid less because they take lower-paying jobs. That’s definitely a thing, and fields such as teaching, nursing, and social work tend to be dominated by women, while men tend to gravitate toward the more lucrative fields such as doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. Is pushing for women to take more “masculine” jobs the solution, or would it be better to push for “women’s” jobs to be better paid? Does the fact that those fields are generally female contribute to the fact that their wages are so poor?


  2. This article helps to explain some reasons behind the wage gap other than blatant sexism. As we discussed in class, the 1960’s and 70’s helped create a public consciousness that women should be paid equal and in many ways be treated equally. I believe that most of the wage gap is not conscious employers actively deciding to discriminate against women. However, because the factor are so subtle such as state tax allotment for education or social work, the risk of jobs and how many women choose to enter high-risk fields, maternity leave costs, gender expectations with ambition for promotions and raises, etc…This perspective makes the issue more realistic and more difficult to tackle with a single solution.


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