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Gender – Wage Gap Essay

Within Australia’s workforce history, there has been a strong presence of the gender wage gap between men and women. The differences in wages between men and women still seem to persist in today’s society (Sap 1993). A study by van Wanrooy (2009) suggests that even though there is an increase of women in the labour market, they still have the caring responsibilities, looking to juggle work and family. Throughout the workforce, there is still a significant barrier present which suggests that the ‘male breadwinner’ is still the evident employment model in Australia (van Wanrooy 2009).

Women seem to have a people and family first approach to work, while men tend to respect their work life and value money more (Pon and Nyhus 2012).Women’s struggle within the labour market often results from the lack of bargaining power within their chosen occupation and their skills (Preston and Jefferson 2007). Firstly, this essay will discuss the relationship between bargaining power and the current issue of the gender wage gap within Australia. This essay will explore the reasons as to why women struggle to bargain with their employers on the issue of wages and fair working conditions. Secondly, this essay with explore why the difference in personality traits between men and women contribute to the gender wage gap.

A striking explanation for the present gender wage gap within the Australian workforce is the lack of bargaining power that women currently hold in their workplaces. Within Australia, women generally work in low paid and low skill occupations. This in turn limits their access to representation and strong bargaining power when it comes to negotiating pay outcomes, particularly in part time jobs (van Wanrooy 2009). As previously stated, women tend to work in low skilled jobs which then disadvantages their bargaining power. Van Wanrooy (2009) states that those people with high skill levels within their occupation are seen to have more confidence and motivation towards bargaining for more desirable pay and work conditions. Furthermore, this suggests that men have a higher bargaining power over women.

This is due to the fact that 46% of women are more likely to be given work in a lower skilled job compared to the low 36% of men that are employed in low skilled jobs (van Wanrooy 2009). This then gives men a greater opportunity to bargain for better wages, while decreasing women’s contingency to narrow the gender wage gap through bargaining power. The segmentation of women into low paid jobs and occupations has clearly limited access to bargaining power, and resulted in women relying on minimum wages distributed through the reward system (van Wanrooy 2009). In a study by Frino and Whitehouse (2003) , it is also seen that with the over representation of women in the award only sector, this clearly disadvantages women in seeking higher bargaining power and doesn’t decrease the persistent gender wage gap. As female workers are more likely to work in industries with 100 employees or less, this jeopardises the chance to gain bargaining power to negotiate wages through unions.

This is due to the fact that there is a lower chance of unions to be present in smaller businesses (van Wanrooy 2009). This creates an issue for women as they are the ones that need protection and the bargaining power of the unions. While women in low skilled occupations are less likely to be union members, union membership is almost doubled when it comes to men in the same occupation (van Wanrooy 2009). With women in low qualified jobs, less likely to be union members, this impacts their ability to collaborate with their employers over the issue in the wage gap between genders.

Within the labour market, it is demonstrated that because of the difference in personality traits between genders, women are often less rewarded then men (Pon and Nyhus 2011). In the labour rmarket, earnings, employment, promotion and productivity can all be influenced by personality traits (Linz and Semykina 2010). As employees, personality traits determine the amount of effort and productivity brought forward in the workplace, influencing the way they act towards incentives (Pon and Nyhus 2011). According to Pon and Nyhus (2011), women tend to be more cautious and less competitive compared to men. The lack of competitiveness by women can then lead to women staying in a particular job for longer, accepting the lower salary, not wanting to compete for other high paying jobs. As women are found to be the most agreeable in the workforce compared to men (Pon and Nyhus 2011), this reflects upon women negatively as they are more willing to agree to first offers by employers, most often resulting agreeing to a low paid job.

Personality difference and behaviours between men and women could potentially grow to wage differences and could partly explain the gender wage gap (Pon and Nythus 2011). Interesting findings from a study conducted by Hogue, Singleton and Yoder (2007) identified that women are found to hold beliefs about themselves that include having a lower self worth and a depressed entitlement. This is then reflects a lower social status, but when their status is lifted, their wage entitlement also lifts. Whereas men believe that they deserve higher wages even though their abilities and performance may not reflect worthy of a higher wage (Hogue, Singleton and Yoder 2007). On average, women are less emotionally stable compared to their male counterparts, with emotionally stable people predicted to earn more than those that are emotionally unstable (de Jong and Need 2008).

This could begin to explain why women are being paid less and why the gender wage gap is still prevalent in today’s society. De Jong and Need (2008) also found within their study that people who class themselves as sociable expect to earn less than those that are more career orientated. On average, women tend to be more sociable then men (de Jong and Need 2008). It is also evident that those who are more intellectual receive higer wages, with men tending to be more intellectual than women (de Jong and Need 2008). These three personality traits that affect a person’s earning and wages could be linked to the gender wage gap as women who are emotionally unstable and more sociable would be less career focused and motivated compared to men in their workplace.

In summary, there are many explanations for the current gender wage gap in Australia. This essay has revealed two in depth explanations as to why the gender wage gap still persists. From the use a previous research, this essay has identified those two explanations, the lack of bargaining power of women and the influence of personality traits on income, as accurate explanations of why the gender wage gap is still evident in society today. Each arguments are valid within Australia’s workforce and suggest that further research should be conducted to identify further trends of the gender wage gap, and possibly enforce new rules and regulations to help combat the gender wage gap and promote equity between male and female employees.


Frino, B & Whitehouse, G 2008, ‘Women, wages and Industrial Agreements’, Australian Journal of Labour Economics, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 579-596, viewed 27th April 2012, via Informit

Hogue, M, Yoder, JD & Singleton, SB 2007, ‘The Gender Wage Gap: An explanation of men’s elevated wage entitlement’, Sex Roles, vol. 56, no. 9-10, pp. 573-579, viewed 01st May 2012, SpringerLink, DOI 10.1007/s1119-007-9199-z

Jefferson, T & Preston, A 2007, ‘Trends in Australia’s Gender-wage ratio’, Labour and Industry, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 69-84, viewed 27th April 2012, via ProQuest Central

Linz, SJ & Semykina, A 2012, ‘Analysing the gender pay gap in transition economies: How much does personality matter’, Human Relations, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 447-469, viewed 30th April 2012, SAGE Premier 2012, DOI 10.1177/0018726709339094

Need, A & de Jong, U 2008, ‘Personality traits and gender-specific income expectations in Dutch higher education’, Social Indicators Research, vol. 86, no. 1, pp. 113-128, viewed 30th April 2012, SpringerLink, DOI 10.1007/s11205-007-9104-8

Nyhus, EK & Pons, E 2011, ‘Personality and the gender wage gap’, Applied Economics, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 105-118, viewed 27th April 2012, Taylor & Francis Online Library, DOI 10.1080/00036846.2010.500272

Sap, J 1993, ‘Baragining power and wages: A game-theoretic model of gender differences in unions wage bargaining’, Labour Economics, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 25-48, viewed 27th April 2012, Science Direct database, DOI 10.1016/0927-537(93)90004-2

Van Wanrooy, B 2009, ‘Women at work in Australia: Bargaining a Better Position?”, Australian Bulletin of Labour, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 611-628, viewed 27th April 2012, via ProQuest Central

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