Sex and Pay in the Federal Government: Using Job Evaluation Systems to Implement Comparable Worth

By Doris M. Werwie | Go to book overview

Introduction

Only within the past few years has the possibility that "jobs held mainly by women . . . pay less in part because they are held mainly by women" ( Treiman and Hartmann, 1981:93) been given careful consideration. At issue here is the notion of "equal pay for jobs of comparable worth," a notion that some have predicted will become "one of the most hotly debated employment issues of the 1980s" ( Bureau of National Affairs, Special Report, October 1981:1). 1 According to comparable worth advocates, discrimination exists when workers of one sex, race, or ethnicity in one job category are paid less than workers in a totally different job category (for example, nursing assistants versus computer aides) when the two groups are performing work that is not the same but is seen as being of comparable worth to the employer.

In an October 28, 1981, special report by the Bureau of National Affairs titled "The Comparable Worth Issue," Compensation Institute Director David Thompson stated that "apart from blatantly biased selection techniques, job evaluation is the single most effective device by which organizations retain and create discriminatory practices" ( 1981:21).

Comparable worth advocates have suggested that existing job evaluation systems can be utilized to establish the comparability of pay for jobs. They acknowledge, however, that these systems need to be made bias-free in order to reduce the wage gap between male- and female-dominated jobs. They recommend both con

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