Doing Comparable Worth: Gender, Class, and Pay Equity

Doing Comparable Worth: Gender, Class, and Pay Equity

Doing Comparable Worth: Gender, Class, and Pay Equity

Doing Comparable Worth: Gender, Class, and Pay Equity

Synopsis

"This is the first complete description of the process of developing and implementing comparable worth in the United States. It shows clearly how different interests become enmeshed in the process and transfrom the project by their presence. The result is that the political conflicts become more understandable. Perhaps more importantly, Acker locates the struggle over comparable worth theoreticallyhellip;. A significant contribution to the debate over comparable worth and more broadly to the analysis of class and gender." -Roslyn L. Feldberg, Associate Director, Labor Relations, Massachusetts Nurses Association

Excerpt

This is a study of a large comparable worth project and of how gender and class dynamics influenced its outcome. I have a double intent: first, to understand comparable worth as a practical effort, constrained by conflicting gender and class interests, and second, to explore theoretically the connections between gender and class, using the comparable worth project as a ground for making visible some of these connections.

Activists in the women's movement ask the practical question, What are the best strategies for increasing economic equality between women and men? Comparable worth, or equal pay for work of equal value, is, in the 1980s, the most visible answer to that question. Comparable worth argues for raising the wages of sex-segregated, female-dominated jobs on the grounds that this work has been historically undervalued (Aaron and Lougy, 1986; Treiman and Hartmann, 1981; Remick, 1981; Grune, 1980; Cook, 1983; Gold, 1983). The undervaluation is, proponents contend, a form of discrimination. Comparable worth projects determine the amount of undervaluation by comparing the complexity and responsibility of female- and male-dominated jobs, then institute pay increases to eliminate the identified discrimination.

Comparable worth is a recent strategy. In a few places, such as the state of Minnesota, the policy has been set and pay equity has been implemented. In many others, delays and difficulties seem to slow down its acceptance (Cook, 1985). Accumulating . . .

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