The Influence of Social Values and Childhood Socialization on Occupational Gender Segregation and Wage Disparity

By Kalantari, Behrooz | Public Personnel Management, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Social Values and Childhood Socialization on Occupational Gender Segregation and Wage Disparity


Kalantari, Behrooz, Public Personnel Management


Dramatic increase in the labor force participation of women is the single most outstanding phenomenon in the United States' labor market. This phenomenon has significant effects on every aspect of life, including child-rearing pattern, trend in fertility, marriage and divorce, pattern of marital power, decision-making and demand for supportive services in the economy. For this reason, it can be argued that greatest changes of the twenty-first century may result from the tremendous increase in the proportion of women working outside their homes. Recent statistics indicate that Women comprised 46% of the total U.S. labor force in 2007 and are projected to account for 47% of the labor force in 2014. (1) Taking into consideration the historical context of this phenomenon, this data shows a gradual increase in female participation in the labor force. For example, according to Parrish, "in 1870 women comprised only 15 percent of all the labor force in the United States and by 1930 it reached as high as 25 percent." (2) This increase is mainly due to the changes in nature of the economy, social composition and female's participation in higher education. Recent studies show that in 2007, women made up "the majority of college students and female's GPAs are on average higher than male's across all majors." (3)

Latest statistics on women's earnings show that the median weekly earnings of women who were full-time wage and salary workers were $614 or 80 percent of men's ($746) which is slightly lower than previous year of $600 or 81 percent of men's $743. (4) This figure represents a modest increase in median weekly salary for women who worked full-time in 2002 and earned $530 or 78 percent of their male counterparts which was $680. (5) Although there has been a steady improvement in women's earning especially during last few years, there is still substantial wage gap between male and female employees in the work force. The theory of pay equity (comparable worth), or "equal pay for work of equal value," has been advocating substantial policy changes to close this gap more rapidly.

Wage inequity raises significant questions of social justice, efficient utilization of human resources, structuring of labor markets, and of wider social aspects of work and family life. (6) Policies based on the "comparable worth theory," require that employees be paid comparable salaries based on the composition of the jobs. For example, such factors as know-how, problem solving, accountability, and undesirable working conditions that can be measured should be used to evaluate the worth of a job rather than using the job market as the sole criterion. (7)

Most labor market theories indicate that occupational gender segregation is the major dilemma which contributes to the wage disparity between male and female employees in the United States. (8) Several studies show that high concentration of women is found in only a few occupations nationally and generally in few job titles at the firm level. (9) Most studies highlight the undervalued female dominated occupations as compared to their male counterpart and the negative effect of this phenomenon on female earnings. (10) Although job segregation is a social issue, it spills over into other aspects of life. Existence of job segregation has substantial economic and social consequences especially if we take into consideration the median earning for jobs in the labor market. According to the recent statistics representing jobs with different pay scales (Tables 1 and 2), women are concentrated in low-paying jobs while their male counterparts dominate the most highly paid occupations. (11)

Similar results are reported by AFL-CIO on wages and occupations in 2005. According to their findings, 92% of registered nurses, 82% of elementary/middle school teachers, and 98% of kindergarten/preschool teachers were female while only 13% of civil engineers, 7% of electrical engineers, and 3% of flight engineers/aircraft engineers were female. …

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The Influence of Social Values and Childhood Socialization on Occupational Gender Segregation and Wage Disparity
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