Acknowledging Discrimination as a Key to the Gender Pay Gap
I comment again on issues raised in my initial paper in this issue (Lips 2012, this issue) and respond to commentaries by Huffman (2012, this issue), Olson (2012), Stockdale and Nadler (2012) and Tharenou (2012). Even in the light of a large and growing body of evidence for the gender pay gap, a lack of awareness of the gap still exists. This lack of awareness may have roots in system-justification beliefs. Such beliefs can be reinforced by a human capital approach, which may appear to rationalize the gender pay gap by attributing it mainly to the choices individuals make, while downplaying the role of discrimination. Although, as commentators on my original article have pointed out, some researchers who use this model may be aware of its limitations, and some may have moved beyond it because of its limitations, such limitations may not be so obvious to consumers of the research. Thus, a continuing, careful critique of the human capital model, and attention to the impact of cultural gender stereotypes on the variables it encompasses, is warranted. However, as several commentators have also noted, there are other useful ways of analyzing the gender pay gap, such as focusing on institutional variables associated with it or examining it from the perspective of cumulative disadvantage. These too should also be vigorously pursued in the service of understanding and eliminating the gap.