Sex Roles

, Volume 68, Issue 3–4, pp 198–206 | Cite as

The Work of Feminists is Not Yet Done: The Gender Pay Gap—a Stubborn Anachronism

  • Phyllis TharenouEmail author
Feminist Forum Commentary


Lips (2012) critiques the literature, predominantly from the United States, to assess how well human capital theory explains the gender pay gap. Her analysis shows that human capital inputs are an imperfect explanation for the gap and that social psychological influences also provide key explanations. I comment on Lips’s paper using literature from the United States and other English-speaking highly developed countries and, to a lesser extent, from European countries. I elaborate and extend her position, promoting the argument for the effect of social influences and for their interactive and incremental effects. I place the phenomenon of the gender pay gap into a societal context. I borrow from the literature for the effect of gender discrimination on women’s advancement in management to discuss explanatory influences. I extend the inference that the gender pay gap supports and maintains the lesser status of women in society and that it helps to preserve the status quo with respect to gender roles. To explain the gender pay gap, I propose that the development of an integrated theoretical framework is needed. The framework would combine the direct and interactive influences of human capital and social psychological inputs, in the context of a cumulative, incremental pattern that occurs over a person’s working life.


Gender pay gap Gender discrimination Gender social roles Gender stereotypes Human capital Social influences Gender differences in advancement 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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