Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Gender Disparity in Pay, Work Schedule Autonomy and Job Satisfaction at Higher Education Levels

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Gender Disparity in Pay, Work Schedule Autonomy and Job Satisfaction at Higher Education Levels

Article excerpt

Since the signing of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, there has been extensive progress in narrowing the gender wage gap in the United States (The Council of Economic Advisers, 1998). Perhaps this progress could be attributed to the corresponding gains in educational attainment. The representation of women in higher education has increased dramatically (Blau & Kahn, 2007; U.S. Center for National Educational Statistics, 2005). Women have been earning more bachelor's degrees than men since 1981-1982, and are currently earning advanced degrees (i.e., Master's, J.D.'s, Ph.D.'s) at comparable rates to men (Snyder & Dillow, 2013; Snyder & Hoffman, 2002). In addition, the pay ratio across jobs between men and women ages 25-34 years old has increased from 68% in 1979 to 79% in 2015 (Blau & Kahn, 2016). For employees 45 to 54 years old, the ratio between men and women's earnings has increased from 57% in 1979 to 77% in 2013 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2014). Overall, education has demonstrated positive outcomes for reducing gender pay inequity (Blau & Kahn, 2007; Warner, 2015).

Despite these historical gains in annual salary and educational attainment, reductions in gender wage disparity found in the 80's and 90's have begun to slow, if not stop (Blau & Kahn, 2007). According to previous research, women made 80 percent of men's annual salary, even when controlling for major and occupation choice in the years after graduation (Dey & Hill, 2007) and when examining comparable work across many different countries (OECD, 2011). This slowing momentum not only illustrates the ongoing need to address the gender pay gap as a modern concern, but also the role that factors of human capital, such as education level, may play in the gender pay gap. To further investigate this trend, we examined whether educational attainment predicts various job dimensions (i.e., attitudes, characteristics, and outcomes) differently for men and women. The study is a temporal comparison of 2002 and 2008 national samples of employees in the United States used to examine trends in job pay, job satisfaction, and work schedule autonomy. This research addresses the mixed findings on gender differences in job satisfaction, as well as work-life balance.

Explanations for the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap has been examined from economic, sociological, and psychological frameworks (Stockdale & Nadler, 2013). Human capital theory suggests that supply-side variables, such as education level, enhance employees' professional experiences and abilities (Becker, 1964; Olson, 2013). In a meta-analysis of predictors of career success, human capital indicators (including education level) positively predicted pay and promotions across the career span (Ng et al., 2005). The human capital approach suggests that as women build their human capital, the gender pay gap will decline. As evidence, from 1970-1995, increases in women's labor force participation and job experience showed substantial decreases in the gender wage gap (Blau, 1998).

In response to human capital theories, social psychologists have offered competing explanations for gender disparities, creating a more complex and integrative approach to understanding gendered work outcomes in the United States (Tharenou, 2013). Human capital indicators do not explain the gender wage gap in its entirety (Blau, 1998). Moreover, theories based solely on human capital overlook the pervasive nature of factors, such as discrimination, that affect human capital variables (Lips, 2013). In response, human capital theorists have acknowledged the model's limitations, but point out the model's theoretical contributions, especially when combined with other psychological models (Olson, 2013; Stockdale & Nadler, 2013).

Despite these gains, the gender wage gap did not decrease in recent decades as much as it did from the 1970's to the 1990's (Blau & Kahn, 2006). …

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