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Human Resource Management Education Essay

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2022

Introduction

This chapter reviews existing theoretical and empirical evidence on gender based pay outcomes. Through this approach, it will determine what current theory says regarding to the relationship between education and gender wage gap, the measures that have been used to reduce gender-based wage inequality and the social benefits accrued from reducing the gender wage inequality. In view of these facts, the structure utilised by this chapter is as follows: theoretical underpinning on relationship between education and gender wage gap; effectiveness of measures to reduce gender-based wage inequality; examination of the HRM education contributes to understanding of gender pay gap; finally summary.

Theoretical Underpinning on Relationship between Education and Gender Wage Gap

Different scholars have come up with different conceptualisations on the relationship between education and gender wage gap. Whilst some theorists such as Morgan et al. (2013) believe that gender based stereotypes influence the gender pay gap disparities, others such as Light, Roscigno and Kalev (2011), hold a contrary opinion and are of the belief that education and merit informs the wages accrued by either gender. These believes have given rise to the discrimination theory that is informed by stereotypes and the human capital theory that is informed by merit based pay structures.

Discrimination theory

According to Burt, Simons and Gibbons (2012), discrimination as a concept, refers to the unfounded adverse conduct towards certain societal groups or its members whereby behavior is adjudicated to encompass both activities towards and verdicts of the group or its members. In addition, Ashley and Empson (2013) argue that the expression of discrimination can broadly be categorized into overt or direct and subtle, unconscious or automatic discrimination. As captured by Charles and Guryan (2011), manifestations of discrimination can be captured from the point of view of verbal and non-verbal hostilities, avoidance of contact, aggressive approach behaviors and a denial of opportunities of access or equal treatment. Whilst across a diverse cultural, domain and historical accounts, there have been systemic disparities between dominant and non-dominant groups, the discrimination theory utilized in this study focuses on the denial of opportunity to the women gender based groups. According to Perry, Harp and Oser (2013), in societal domains, women are paid less and are allocated to positions of lower status in comparison to men regardless of occupation and qualification. In view of this situation, theoretical perspectives by Reskin (2011) avers that gender based discrimination suffers from the phenomena of gender penalty. These are defined as the net disadvantages experienced by ethnic minorities or female gender members regardless of possessing higher educational qualifications, age and experience in the labour market. Although scholars such as Light, Roscigno and Kalev (2011) believe that the net disadvantages cannot wholly be equated to discrimination, it can be argued that discrimination is a major factor for the occurrence.

The discrimination theory, as captured by Morgan et al. (2013), is based on the premise that wages for female workers are negatively affected by stereotypes such as low levels of commitment, a caring nature, perceived physical weakness and a lesser need for income. Likewise, McGinnity and Lunn (2011) contends that based on influences by the stereotypes, employers are likely to develop the belief that female workers are more likely to commit to their families as supposed to committing to a professional career. As such, employers are likely to prefer training and rewarding male colleagues whose future revenues are perceived to be more certain. Other scholars such as Ashley and Empson (2013) have developed the opinion that female best stereotypes play a significant role in influencing employment conditions for females. As such, some aspects such as salaries could be negatively affected due to prejudices placed on women skills and preferences.

Yet, critics of the discrimination theory such as Burt, Simons and Gibbons (2012), are of the opinion that existing gender based pay disparities cannot be wholly attributed to discrimination. In some labour situations, the effort and nature of the job has often affirmed traditional views on job roles. As a consequence, male candidates have a higher probability of accessing roles within male oriented labour types as opposed to women. Likewise, Wright et al. (2013) add that whilst discrimination is a major determinant for the existence of gender based pay disparities, over the course of their education and socialization, male individuals tend to develop better knowledge and skill outcome in relation to women. As such, male job candidates have a higher probability of acquiring high paying jobs in relation to women.

Human Capital Theory

The human capital theory, as encapsulated by Leitch, McMullan and Harrison (2013), is narrowly related with the study of human resource management. The aspect of human capital itself is defined by Fugar, Ashiboe-Mensah and Adinyira (2013), as the supply of conducts, information, communal and character attributes personified in the capability of an individual to perform labour and produce economic value. In view of the above perspectives, it appears that human capital is not only unique but also differentiated from other forms of capital. As such, it is vital for firms to realise their goals, develop and remain innovative. Theoretical perspectives by Ganotakis (2012) aver that firms invest in human capital through education and training. Education and training are important in improving the levels of quality and productivity of human labour. The establishment of a link between education and human capital appears to indicate that education is important in improving the quality and productivity of human capital. Therefore, with theoretical perspectives of Almendarez (2013) capturing the view that high quality and productive employees are more likely to earn higher wages, it can also be conceptualized that highly educated persons are likely to attract higher wages and salaries. In so doing, it appears that the human capital theory does not factor for gender differences but the merits of the individual involved in production.

Scholars such as Marginson (2019) have criticized the human capital theory for its premised approach of explaining all differences in wages and salary from the point of view of human capital. For instance, based on arguments by Campbell, Coff and Kryscynski (2012), it appears that this criticism was based on the belief that human capital had the potential to be infinitely elastic and characterized immeasurable variables that included personal character or connections with family and insiders. As a consequence, it could be argued that wages could potentially be higher for employees for reasons beyond those of human capital. Some of these variables that have been identified by literature review perspectives of scholars such as Tan (2014) have included gender, discrimination in the workplace, socioeconomic status, gender and nativity wage differentials. Other scholars critical of the human capital theory, such as Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz, as cited by Livingstone (2012), conceptualized the ‘signaling theory’ as an alternative theory to overcome the shortcomings of the human capital theory. The signaling theory was based on the premise that education did not lead to increased human capital. Rather, it acted as a mechanism through which workers with superior innate abilities could signal their abilities to prospective employers as a way of gaining above average wages (Khan, 2016).

Comparatively, the human capital theory is in direct contradiction to the discrimination theory and its influence of stereotypes. According to Burt, Simons and Gibbons (2012), in the absence of discrimination, it is expected that salaries are essentially explained by present and potential productivity of employees. Likewise, Leitch, McMullan and Harrison (2013) argues that in the event of non-observable factors such as knowledge, skills and experience are expected to influence the wage level accrued by certain employees. Therefore, far drawn from the discrimination theory, by Campbell, Coff and Kryscynski (2012) assert that human capital theory and its inclusion of higher education should therefore, have identical wage outcomes for both male and female employees. Yet, Reskin (2011) points out that gender-based discrimination challenges this assertion due to the attainment of higher education more likely to help female employees access higher wages. As such, the argument that differentiates the discrimination theory from the human capital theory is that of education not being a determinant in the determination of pay levels amongst female candidates. Nonetheless, the human capital theory, in contrast, believes that education plays an important role in the determination of gender based pay with highly educated and productive women accessing comparable wages to male counterparts (Fugar, Ashiboe-Mensah and Adinyira, 2013). This is because it is based on the ignorance of gender based prejudices and embrace of their commitment towards their careers.

Effectiveness of Measures to Reduce Gender-Based Wage Inequality

Higher education, as informed by Tharenou (2013), has traditionally been correlated to high wages. Human capital theorists such as Rabovsky and Lee (2018) have long argued that wages are geared towards rewarding workers. As such, graduate employees should be paid more than those with lower levels of education. Similarly, Grey-Bowen and McFarlane (2010) point out that highly educated individuals are more likely to have higher skills and capabilities than those with lower levels of education. As a consequence, the highly educated individuals likely to possess high levels of skills and capabilities should accrue higher wages in comparison to individuals with a lower skill set and capability. Furthermore, views by Doucet, Smith and Durand (2012) complement the above arguments by pointing out that graduates are likely to possess specific natural skill sets that are very vital in recording higher levels of academic qualifications. As such, regardless of the potential of human capital gains, they are likely to develop an innate and superior ability in relation to other students.

It can be argued that graduate employees should expect a particular financial return for their investment in education. Consequently, Olson (2013) avers that these perspectives also reinforce the view that offering marginalized women more opportunities to gain advanced education can play an important role in addressing potential gender based pay differences. Lips (2013a) informed this view by enabling them to leverage on higher-level skills that ultimately add value towards improving their capability to perform higher quality and complex work that attracts higher pay packets. However, arguments by Wilska and Lintonen (2016) point out that gender based challenges such as maternity continue to undermine efforts towards empowering women in the workplace. For instance, Hirsch, König and Möller (2013) aver that many countries have certain economic sectors that do not provide paid maternity leave to female employees. As such, this often makes it difficult for women to advance their careers as they are compelled to quit in order to take care of children often without pay.

The prohibition of pay secrecy and employer retaliation is an important process in the solution to the gender pay gap disparities. Arguments by Calvasina, Calvasina and Calvasina (2015) point out that there exists uneven legislative protections against pay secrecy at national level. As such, this means that certain classes of employees are covered by the National Labour Relations Act from employer retaliation for discussion of own wages with co-workers (Hirsch, 2013). Likewise, Lyons (2012) contends that the enforcement of prohibitions around pay secrecy and employee retaliation would help raise greater awareness amongst employees on their rights and freedoms in the workplace. As a consequence, employees would be more confident in publicly discussing gender based pay disparities thereby drawing attention to the discrimination.

Yet, Kim (2015) points out that most workers lack the knowledge and awareness of their rights and protections. As such, this often weakens their argument and become subject of exploitation by the organisation. For instance, as captured by Dubose (2016), a large proportion of the American workforce is unaware of the protection they enjoy under the National Labour Relations Act. For example, some states such as California, Connecticut, Maryland and New York have instituted protections to safeguard against pay disclosures (Koskinen Sandberg, 2016). As such, they are unable to identify when employers violate the federal law and sue the organisations. In addition, this lack of awareness reduces the prevalence of exposure and discussion around gender based pay gap disparities (Kim, 2013). Therefore, the lack of expansive awareness of the gender based pay gap due to underreporting undermines the prohibition of pay secrecy and employer retaliation policies.

Legislation provides another avenue upon which, gender based pay equality can be achieved. According to Smith (2012), legislation creates an affirmative action that compels businesses to ensure the adoption of a policy that guarantees that equal pay for work of equal value is enforced. Similarly, and in support of the argument by Gow and Middlemiss (2011), Koskinen Sandberg (2016) contends that with the creation and maintenance of wage and salary differences amongst employees working in the same establishment and offering similar value being discriminatory, legislation provides a framework to redress these imbalances. For instance, Canada and Australia are amongst the countries that have adopted the legislation of Equal Wages as a guideline to businesses on how to offer equal pay provisions regardless of gender (Charlesworth and Macdonald, 2015). Nonetheless, Rubery and Grimshaw (2015) criticize the interference of the government in the free market labour economy. This is based on the argument that government interference in the free market has the effect of distorting market prices. Likewise, O’Reilly et al. (2015) discourage the use of government apparatus in enforcing a minimum wage because it raises the cost of goods and services as employers pass on the extra cost of operations to consumers in form of higher prices. Therefore, in this occurrence, it appears that the use of the government apparatus to enforce the equal pay for work of equal value across gender, has an undesirable negative influence on market prices in an economy.

Another option that can be used to solve the gender pay disparities amongst men and women is collective agreement. Based on theoretical perspectives by Dawson (2014), collective bargaining agreements around gender are popular in European Union countries. For instance, in France, businesses with 50 or more employees are required by law to negotiate wages and salaries based on gender equality and pay equity (Antonczyk, Fitzenberger and Sommerfeld, 2010). France and other countries within the European Union have come up with unique solutions to lessen the gender wage gap by conducting annual collective bargaining agreements. As shown, the collective bargaining agreements are pro-employees because they provide a platform upon which, employees can use to agitate for their rights. Although the collective bargaining agreement is a useful tool in bringing about gender based pay equality, scholars such as Milner and Gregory (2014) criticize the method for its contribution towards inequality. This is based on the argument that it can result in employers and or employees receiving lesser value than they deserve. For instance, if representation is weak on the side of the employer, there is a chance of losing a substantial amount of money towards over-compensation and excessive employee benefits. Likewise, Saari (2013) adds that the collective bargaining agreement is biased towards employers. This is because it provides employees with too much power whilst leaving the employers helpless in how to run their businesses.

Identification of Important Social Benefits towards Reducing Gender Wage Inequality

In a 2017 study conducted by Women’s Policy Research Institute, and cited by Schulze (2018), it was established that reducing the gender pay gap would cut poverty rates in half. This position argues that narrowing the gender pay gap would empower women to not only earn as much as men, but also use the extra earnings towards the reduction of the level of poverty in society. Corroboratively, another research conducted by Action Aid (2019) to assess the merits of reducing the gender pay gap established that the additional income brought about by a reduction in gender pay gap, would bring about an additional income of $512 billion to the US economy. As a consequence, it can be argued that this amount would play an important role in the reduction of poverty in the US marginalized communities.

In support of the above arguments, Lagarde and Ostry (2018)’s research focused on the developing economies, added that a reduction in the gender pay gap had the potential of boosting women’s earnings in developing countries by $2 trillion. Therefore, by seeking to reduce the gender pay gap, the levels of poverty in the developing countries would decrease. Contrastingly, although West et al., (2012) agree that a reduction of poverty is an important social outcome associated with the reduction in the gender based pay gap, concerns are raised around the quality of life around the traditional roles of women. Likewise, Foma (2014) adds that encouraging more women to pursue corporate opportunities reduces the efforts and contributions of women in domestic roles. As such, with lesser women showing an inclination towards handling domestic activities, there is a negative impact on the quality of life of the entire family. Therefore, whilst the poverty rates decline through the involvement of more women in the workplace, the overall quality of life is also likely to decrease due to the abandonment of the traditional roles of women.

Social economic development amongst women is another important social benefits associated with the reduction in gender best pay. According to Action Aid (2019) social economic development amongst women is a bigger payoff associated with the reduction of gender barriers along development paths. In addition, and in support of the above argument, Lagarde and Ostry (2018) add that promoting the inclusion of more women into the labour force not only brings about economic development but also fosters greater social development through women empowerment. For instance, Haile (2012) points out that women are likely to be more vocal in policy decision making and included in vital conversations that previously affected them but excluded them from the conversation. Likewise, Tyson (2014) adds that there are many advantages in bringing social development towards women. By reducing the gender pay gap, social equality and inclusivity discussions can help boost the morale of women as they feel valued and appreciated in society. Therefore, this has the potential of making women more active contributors towards the value creation that takes place within the society. However, Schulze (2018) argues that whilst reducing gender based pay gap can bring about social development to women, barriers to women’s employment and social development makes this a slow process.

Traditional female roles such as home keeping and tending to children have often imposed huge challenges on women thereby further compromising their involvement in the labour market especially in the developing countries. More so, Foma (2014) add that the barriers to women’s socio-economic empowerment vary across regions and countries. For instance, some Middle East and North Africa region countries impose up to a 50% tax rate on women employment in addition to the welfare losses in the form of consumption and leisure time lost as more women enter the labour force. As such, the corresponding overall effect on equal socio-economic development for women across all regions is difficult to achieve.

In seeking to reduce the gender based pay disparities, businesses are encouraged to promote diversity in the workplace. According to Angeline (2011), diversity within the organisation has the effect of strengthening the bottom line. This argument can be associated to the higher morale that employees develop within the organisation owing to the feeling of greater acceptance and value. As such, and as informed by Martin (2014), the feeling of greater value enables employees to feel happier in their workplace hereby boosting their level of productivity. Likewise, in a study conducted by Mazur (2010), it was concluded that a diverse workplace provided a greater contribution creatively, innovatively and productively. This is because the diverse workforce had an assortment of ideas and innovation that could only position the organisation to improve and leverage on a wider range of ideas. Similarly, Haile (2012) postulated that bringing about diverse gender workforces had the effective of promoting and growing robust and inclusive economies that were more likely to last and be effective.

With a higher satisfaction rate amongst gender diverse workforces, Gates and Mark (2012) conceptualizes that the lower turnover can be important in building an effective and well-coordinated workforce. Yet, critics of diversity in the workplace such as Cletus et al. (2018) argue that promoting gender based workplace diversity as a way of reducing pay in the organisation, could bring about increased social tension and civic disengagement. As such, this can reduce the employee morale towards learning new things and engaging with others in certain organisations whereby the disparities between the male and female gender is likely to be more significant. Similarly, Pathak (2011) adds that in traditional roles that were considered the preserve for male gender, the addition of women as a way of promoting diversity could create social tension. For instance, male employees may feel they work harder and produce more yet get the same pay as female workers that offer lesser input in the same job category.

An increase in women’s participation in the workforce created the potential to positively impact on economic growth. Theoretical perspectives by Mandel and Semyonov (2014) appeared to argue that women introduced new skills to the workplace that had the potential of increasing the productivity and growth gains in the workplace. Similarly, scholarly works by Tyson (2014) complemented the above argument by pointing out that bringing more women into the labour force through the reduction of the barriers to women’s participation, tended to have a positive influence on economic growth. Furthermore, Faulk et al., (2013) appear to emphasise the above argument by alluding that closing the gender pay gap could potentially increase GDP by an average of 35%. Of this 35%, 4/5 of these gains could be directly attributed to the addition of workers into the labour force whilst 1/5 of these economic gains, could be directly attributed to gender diversity effects on economic productivity.

As such, in view of the above perspectives, it appears that reducing the gender pay gap could potentially boost economic growth. However, in a study conducted by the European Institute for Gender Equality (2020) it was established that closing the gender pay gap tended to have a small effect on GDP. On the other hand, promoting high wages within an economy, encouraged more women to enter the labor market resulting in an increase in the productive capacity of the economy and subsequently, increased the intensity of employment. Similarly, Lips (2013b) pointed out that an increase in the salaries of women stood a higher chance of reducing the activity rate gap and could potentially be used to explain the positive employment effects associated with improving the labour market outcomes for women. Contrastingly, O’Reilly et al. (2015) added that an economy characterized by higher labour costs could potentially drive down the demand for labour resulting in fewer jobs available. As such, this could potentially erode the positive social benefits associated with the reduction of the gender pay gap.

Summary

In summation, the relationship between education and gender based pay gap have revealed that whilst the human capital theory considers education to be an important factor in the reduction of the gender based pay differences, the discrimination theory downplays the role of education and emphasizes the role played by stereotypes in determining pay for women in the workplace. Moreover, the findings on the effectiveness of measures to reduce gender-based wage inequality have revealed that to a great extent, acquisition of higher education, prohibition of pay secrecy and employer retaliation, legislation and the use of collective bargaining agreements to solve the gender pay disparities amongst men and women are useful and effective but face particular challenges. Furthermore, when identifying the most important social benefits associated with the reduction in the gender pay gap, it was established that a decrease in poverty, social-economic development, and increased productivity and workforce diversity could be realised despite evidence of a decline in the quality of life. Traditional female roles are barriers to women empowerment, while increased social tension and civic disengagement and concerns limit their impact on GDP growth. The research questions derived from this literature review will investigate what students believe to be the main causes of gender wage gap in the UK, the extent that current remuneration policies have been effective in reducing gender wage inequality, the type of attitude students have regarding gender pay gap and the kind of solutions for closing the gap.

Methodology

Introduction

This chapter of the dissertation highlights the methods used by the researcher to carry out the study. Key sections of this chapter will explain the research approach, research design, data collection methods, data analysis techniques and ethical implications of the study. These areas of research development were completed to meet four research objectives. They were designed to understand students’ views regarding the causes of the gender wage gap in the UK, sample their reactions regarding the effectiveness of existing measures to curb gender wage inequality in the country, evaluate their attitudes regarding gender pay gap and assess their views regarding solutions for closing gender wage gap in the UK.

Research Approach

There are two main research approaches used in academic research: qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative method is synonymous with research investigations that measure subjective variables, while the quantitative model is applicable in investigations that measure standardised variables (Marsh et al., 2015). The researcher employed both the quantitative and qualitative techniques as the main research approaches in a broader mixed methods framework of analysis because the research objectives to be met in the investigation were measurable and subjective at the same time. As proposed by Crane et al. (2017), the quantitative method allowed the researcher to derive meaning about the research phenomenon from a small sample of people. This was made possible through the ease in generalising data, which is associated with the quantitative technique. Additionally, researchers have proved that the quantitative research method is more objective and accurate in conveying research information compared to the qualitative technique (Crane et al., 2017). For these reasons, the quantitative research approach was adopted as the primary research approach for collecting data and the qualitative approach was employed as a supplementary model.

Research Design

The type of research design adopted in a study dictates the kind of data to be collected and instruments to be used in the process. As highlighted above, the quantitative approach was the primary technique used in the study. This approach is associated with four types of research designs: causal, experimental, quasi-experimental and descriptive (Claasen et al., 2015; Christ, Penthin and Kröner, 2019). Each of these designs has its unique advantages and disadvantages, but the descriptive method was an appropriate fit for this investigation because the study topic was also descriptive. For instance, the aim of the review was geared towards providing a status-report of the circumstances relating to students’ education regarding gender wage gap differentials in the UK labour market. This is a descriptive issue of the state of education regarding wage differentials in the country. Therefore, the descriptive research design was appropriate for this study.

Data Collection Methods

There are different techniques for collecting data in quantitative investigations. However, the researcher used the questionnaire as the main data collection instrument because it is easy to replicate and send to a large number of people. Furthermore, questionnaires are standardised, which make it the right tool for collecting the same type of data across a large group of respondents. These characteristics of questionnaires made it a good fit for the data collection process. Its key features helped the researcher to capture information relating to the respondents’ demographic characteristics and views on the research topic (see appendix 1). The researcher administered the data collection instrument as a survey and mailed it to the respondents. They were given a week to complete the document and email it to the researcher.

Research Participants

The informants who gave their views in this study were students who attended the same university as the researcher. They were pursuing different types of educational programs in the university and came from diverse backgrounds. Those who chose to participate in the study filled the questionnaire online by giving details relating to their demographic characteristics, such as education levels, age and gender. Initially, the researcher sent 200 questionnaires to 100 men and 100 women. However, only 130 valid questionnaires were retrieved.

Sampling Strategy

The random sampling method was used to select students who would participate in the study because of its lack of bias. Researchers also say it provides an accurate representation of the views of a larger population because it is easy to extrapolate its findings across a larger sample of people (Jarvis, 2019; Kim et al., 2018). Therefore, no predetermined criteria were used to discriminate on those who would participate in the study, based on demographic data. The only prequalification for participating in the study was that the informants had to be students of the university.

Data Analysis Techniques

The findings of the study were analysed using descriptive analysis methods and the t-test technique. These approaches of data collection are some of the tools available for data analysis within the statistical packages for social sciences (SPSS) software package. The independent sample t-test was chosen as a supplementary data analysis technique. It is unique from other types of quantitative assessment tools because it compares the mean of two seemingly unrelated groups of variables. It was used to understand the relationship between the research variables and the demographic characteristics of the respondents.

Ethical Implications of the Study

Research investigations that use human subjects are often subject to several ethical issues, which are meant to safeguard the safety and dignity of the respondents. This study was designed with this principle in mind because the researcher took measures to protect the privacy of the informants and the confidentiality of the views they provided in the investigation. In other words, no personal identifiable markers, such as names and student numbers, were published in the final report. The goal was to protect the informants from any backlash that may occur because of the nature of the views they provided in the study. Furthermore, all the participants who chose to give their opinions in this study did so voluntarily and without coercion. They were also free to withdraw from the project without any repercussions. All the information obtained from them was secured safely in a computer using a password.

Findings

Introduction

As highlighted in chapter three above, the data analysis process was conducted using the SPSS technique and it consisted of two sets of reviews: a descriptive and t-test analysis. The findings for each set of data group are highlighted below.

Quantitative Data (Descriptive Analysis)

The descriptive analysis was used to assess the demographic characteristics of the informants, including their gender, age, education qualification and “major” studied at school. The results of the investigation are outlined below.

Demographic Data

Gender

As highlighted in figure 1 below, the percentage of males who took part in the study (40.8%) was slightly less than females (59.2%).

Figure 4.1: Gender Findings

Gender
Frequency Per cent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 0 77 59.2 59.2 59.2
1 53 40.8 40.8 100.0
Total 130 100.0 100.0

Overall, the total number of respondents who completed the questionnaires was 130 (53 male students and 77 female students). They were pursuing different educational programs at the university as outlined below.

Age

Age was the second demographic variable sampled in the study. According to table 4.3 below, this demographic variable was classified into two groups. The first one comprised of students aged between 18 and 25 years, while the second one included students aged between 26 and 30 years. The highest group of respondents who took part in the study were informants aged between 18 and 25 years (61.5%), while the smallest group of respondents (38.5%) was aged between 26 years and 30 years. Figure 4.2 below summarises the findings

Figure 4.2: Age Findings

Age
Frequency Per cent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 18-25 80 61.5 61.5 61.5
26-30 50 38.5 38.5 100.0
Total 130 100.0 100.0
Education

The third demographic variable used to evaluate the respondents was education. This measure was categorised into two groups: undergraduate and graduate students. As highlighted in figure 4.2 below, most of the respondents (88 students) were pursuing a postgraduate study. Comparatively, 42 of the students were completing their undergraduate studies. These findings are summarised in figure 4.3 below

Figure 4.3: Education Level Findings

Education
Frequency Per cent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Undergraduate 42 32.3 32.3 32.3
Postgraduate 88 67.7 67.7 100.0
Total 130 100.0 100.0
Educational Major

The educational majors of the respondents were analysed by asking them to state whether they were studying a human resource management course or “other” major. The results are as highlighted below.

Figure 4.4. Education Level Findings

Major
Frequency Per cent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Other 76 58.5 58.5 58.5
HRM 54 41.5 41.5 100.0
Total 130 100.0 100.0

According to table 4.4 above, a higher percentage (58.5%) of informants were studying “other” majors compared to the percentage (41.5%) of students pursuing HRM as their major.

The second part of the questionnaire sought to find out the respondent’s views regarding different issues relating to gender pay inequalities in the UK. The views of the respondents were measured using the 7-point Likert scale, which analysed their responses according to seven key impressions of a series of statements posted to them (see questions 5-12 of the questionnaire in appendix). Figure 4.5 below shows the results of the investigation.

Figure 4.5: Descriptive Statistics for Research Issues

Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Gender pay gaps should be dealt with urgently 130 1 5 3.69 1.113
Therehasbeensignificantprogressmadeinreducingthegenderwagegapint 130 1 5 3.49 1.277
Thegovernmentbearsthegreatestresponsibilityinreducingthegenderwa 130 1 5 3.52 1.150
Gender pay equity is important 130 2 5 3.89 .925
Thereisnotreallyagenderpaygapthedifferencesarisefromwomenchoosin 130 1 5 3.70 1.224
The most important reason for the gender wage gap 130 1 5 2.77 1.626
The best way of losing the gender pay gap 130 1 7 4.02 2.035
Ways to obtain information on the gender pay gap 130 1 7 5.45 1.708
Valid N (listwise) 130

T-test Findings

Effects of Gender

The t-tests analyses provided the second layer of data obtained from the respondents. It was used to analyse the relationship between the demographic variables with the responses provided regarding each research variable. In sum, seven research questions were asked (referring to questions 5-12 of the questionnaire). The independent samples test results are provided in Figure 4.6 below.

Figure 4.6: Effects of Gender on Responses

Independent Samples Test
Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
1. Equal variances assumed .600 .440 -.787 110 .433 -.154 .195 -.540 .233
Equal variances not assumed -.793 109.899 .429 -.154 .194 -.537 .230
2. Equal variances assumed .056 .813 .592 110 .555 .093 .157 -.218 .403
Equal variances not assumed .592 108.631 .555 .093 .157 -.218 .403
3. Equal variances assumed 1.606 .208 .636 110 .526 .104 .163 -.219 .427
Equal variances not assumed .639 109.957 .524 .104 .162 -.218 .425
4. Equal variances assumed 8.372 .005 -.356 110 .722 -.048 .136 -.317 .220
Equal variances not assumed -.351 96.907 .726 -.048 .137 -.321 .225
5. Equal variances assumed .636 .427 .204 110 .839 .035 .171 -.304 .374
Equal variances not assumed .203 106.965 .840 .035 .172 -.306 .375
6. Equal variances assumed .426 .515 -.726 110 .469 -.111 .152 -.413 .191
Equal variances not assumed -.722 104.848 .472 -.111 .153 -.415 .193
7. Equal variances assumed 3.936 .050 .979 110 .330 .081 .082 -.083 .244
Equal variances not assumed .985 110.000 .327 .081 .082 -.082 .243

According to the findings highlighted above, the t-statistic for the first question is -.787 and.592,.636, -.356,.204, -.726,.979 for the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh questions, respectively. Also, for all the seven questions asked in the questionnaire, all of them were influenced by gender because their p values were greater than the significance value of p>0.05.

Effects of Age

The second layer of data in the analysis sought to find out whether age played a significant role in influencing the findings. The results are as derived in figure 4.7 below.

Figure 4.7: Effects of Age on Responses

Independent Samples Test
Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
1. Equal variances assumed 1.295 .259 .918 77 .361 .236 .257 -.275 .746
Equal variances not assumed .848 37.028 .402 .236 .278 -.327 .798
2. Equal variances assumed 1.027 .314 .407 77 .685 .086 .212 -.337 .509
Equal variances not assumed .443 54.116 .659 .086 .195 -.304 .477
3. Equal variances assumed 2.074 .154 .532 77 .596 .102 .191 -.278 .481
Equal variances not assumed .495 37.534 .624 .102 .205 -.314 .517
4. Equal variances assumed .840 .362 -3.165 77 .002 -.527 .167 -.859 -.196
Equal variances not assumed -3.058 40.658 .004 -.527 .172 -.876 -.179
5. Equal variances assumed .000 .995 1.939 77 .056 .428 .221 -.012 .868
Equal variances not assumed 1.962 45.105 .056 .428 .218 -.011 .867
6. Equal variances assumed 4.003 .049 .580 77 .564 .115 .199 -.280 .510
Equal variances not assumed .507 33.449 .615 .115 .227 -.346 .577
7. Equal variances assumed 2.137 .148 .680 77 .498 .077 .114 -.149 .304
Equal variances not assumed .699 46.776 .488 .077 .111 -.145 .300

Group 1 (18 Years – 25 Years): According to the findings highlighted in table 4.4 above, the t-statistic for the first question is -918; and.40,.532, -3.165, 1.939,.580,.680 for the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh questions, respectively. All groupings were influenced by age because their p values were greater than the significance value of p>0.05.

Group 2 (“25- 30 Years”): The insights provided below are the results of an analysis between the students’ views, adjusted for the effects of age for respondents who were between 25 and 30 years. According to the findings highlighted in figure 4.8 below, the t-statistic for the first question is -.044; and -.210;.150; 1.597; 1.023; -1.217, -.396 for the second to seventh questions, respectively. These statistics are summarised below.

Figure 4.8: Effects of Age on Responses

Independent Samples Test
Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
1. Equal variances assumed 1.477 .234 -.044 30 .965 -.016 .369 -.769 .737
Equal variances not assumed -.047 29.983 .963 -.016 .342 -.714 .682
2. Equal variances assumed .225 .638 -.210 30 .835 -.057 .270 -.608 .494
Equal variances not assumed -.205 23.878 .839 -.057 .276 -.626 .513
3. Equal variances assumed .004 .950 .150 30 .881 .057 .377 -.713 .826
Equal variances not assumed .149 25.327 .882 .057 .379 -.724 .837
4. Equal variances assumed 4.514 .042 1.597 30 .121 .377 .236 -.105 .858
Equal variances not assumed 1.731 29.924 .094 .377 .217 -.068 .821
5. Equal variances assumed .154 .697 1.023 30 .314 .324 .316 -.322 .970
Equal variances not assumed 1.033 26.729 .311 .324 .314 -.320 .968
6. Equal variances assumed .142 .709 -1.217 30 .233 -.348 .286 -.932 .236
Equal variances not assumed -1.252 28.231 .221 -.348 .278 -.918 .221
7. Equal variances assumed .623 .436 -.396 30 .695 -.049 .123 -.299 .202
Equal variances not assumed -.383 22.827 .705 -.049 .127 -.311 .214

All questions had a significance value of p>0.05, meaning that the responses of participants who were classified in the “31-35” and “over 35” age groups were affected by this variable.

Education

Education was the last demographic variable that the test findings were adjusted for. The findings provided in figure 4.9 below relate to the analysis between the respondent’s views on the questions asked, adjusted for the effects of education for respondents who were pursuing an undergraduate or postgraduate course.

Figure 4.9. Effects of education on Responses

Independent Samples Test
Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
Lower Upper
1. Equal variances assumed 2.146 .147 -.110 70 .913 -.044 .401 -.844 .756
Equal variances not assumed -.183 11.722 .858 -.044 .240 -.568 .480
2. Equal variances assumed .452 .504 1.109 70 .271 .382 .345 -.305 1.070
Equal variances not assumed 1.660 10.048 .128 .382 .230 -.130 .895
3. Equal variances assumed .065 .799 -.515 70 .609 -.158 .308 -.772 .455
Equal variances not assumed -.569 7.753 .586 -.158 .278 -.803 .487
4. Equal variances assumed .094 .760 -1.715 70 .091 -.477 .278 -1.032 .078
Equal variances not assumed -1.490 6.946 .180 -.477 .320 -1.235 .281
5. Equal variances assumed 2.470 .121 -.358 70 .721 -.114 .319 -.751 .522
Equal variances not assumed -.542 10.177 .600 -.114 .211 -.583 .355
6. Equal variances assumed .025 .876 -1.274 70 .207 -.369 .290 -.947 .209
Equal variances not assumed -1.149 7.041 .288 -.369 .321 -1.128 .390
7. Equal variances assumed 27.384 .000 1.614 70 .111 .277 .172 -.065 .619
Equal variances not assumed 4.951 64.000 .000 .277 .056 .165 .389

Group 1 (Undergraduate): According to the findings highlighted in table 4.6 above, the t-statistic for the first question (Question 4 in the questionnaire) is -.110 and 1.109, -.515; -1.715, -.358, -1.274 and 1.614 for questions two, three, four, five, six and seven, respectively – all with 70 degrees of freedom. The questions had a significance value of p>0.05, meaning that the responses of participants who were pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate courses were affected by their education qualifications.

Group 2 (Postgraduate): After adjusting for the effects of educational qualifications, for respondents who were pursuing a postgraduate degree course degrees, it was established that the questions had a significance value of p>0.05. This means that the responses of participants who were pursuing a post-graduate course were affected by their education qualifications.

Summary

The data provided in this chapter reveals that the demographic profiles of the participants played a significant role in informing their views of the research topic. The findings of the research data highlighted above will be analysed and interpreted in the next chapter.

Discussions

Introduction

This study was aimed at examining how human resource management education contributes to students’ understanding of the gender pay gap in the UK. Four research objectives were designed to guide the investigation. They sought to understand students’ views regarding the causes of the gender wage gap in the UK, sample their reactions regarding the effectiveness of existing measures to curb the gender wage inequality in the country, evaluate their attitudes regarding gender pay gap and assess their views relating to solutions for closing the wage gap inequality. This chapter contains an evaluation of the research findings, relative to the aforementioned objectives.

Causes of Gender Wage Gap in the UK

Key issues addressed in this area of investigation included determining how to manage gender pay gaps, evaluate the progress made so far, find out who has the greatest responsibility in managing the gender pay gap, assess the importance of pay equity, establish ways to obtain information on the pay gap and seek ways to solve it. As highlighted in the findings chapter, most of the research respondents believed that the main cause of the gender wage gap in the UK was the preference of women to spend more time doing unpaid work, such as household duties, compared to their male counterparts. This statement aligns with the views of some researchers, such as Vohlídalová (2017), Atkinson et al. (2015), Ashencaen and Shiel (2019), who have mentioned traditional chores as being some of the main reasons why women fail to advance in their careers. Their peers have upheld the same position on male and female social relationships through the perspective of gender competitiveness in the workplace (Ford et al., 2020; Chung and van der Horst, 2018; Kan and Laurie, 2018; Chung, 2019). Nonetheless, few researchers have linked traditional gender roles with the gender wage gap.

In the context of this study, the students presented gender roles as the dominant cause of wage gaps in the UK. This statement marks a departure of the students’ views from past attitudes regarding gender relationships. The insights gathered from the literature review section of this study highlighted the role of the discrimination theory in shaping gender relationships in the workplace. To recap, the theory posits that women are paid unfairly because of the effects of negative stereotypes, such as low levels of commitment, a caring nature, perceived physical weakness and a lesser need for income, on their lives. Therefore, they are judged as being ill-equipped to manage workplace pressures in the same manner as their male counterparts would. Therefore, they find it difficult to justify being paid the same amount of money as their male colleagues.

The discrimination that women go through in the workplace is also supported by the human capital theory, which was also mentioned in the literature review segment of this study. To recap, it presupposes that human resources are the most valuable factors of production and they could be improved over time, such as through education and training programs, to improve output. If analysed in the context of gendered relationships, the theory would presuppose that men are the better-advanced human resource “tool” because they are more physically fit and require less “maintenance” compared to their female colleagues. This theory reinforces the biases that the discrimination theory advances above because it uses biological measures of review to assess human capital requirements.

The need to evaluate the role of theory in this discussion stems from the research objectives of this study, which sought to find out theories that explain gender wage gaps in the UK. The human capital and discrimination theories highlighted above are two of the most commonly cited theories that appeared in the literature review section of this paper. Therefore, they play a significant role in shaping people’s perceptions of gendered relationships in the workplace. They also contribute to the creation of unequal pay structures in the workplace. Nonetheless, the biases and assumptions supporting the aforementioned two theories and their impact on remuneration policies appear to be fading because the research respondents sampled in this study held different views from those advanced above. This change in perception about male and female relationships and contributions in the workplace may mean that students are developing newer attitudes about gender roles in the workplace. Nonetheless, the relatively young age of the respondents could also have contributed to this anomaly in findings because all the respondents were below 30 years. Therefore, they may lack the experience and exposure required in the workplace to holistically understand gender roles in the society and workplace.

Effectiveness of Existing Policies to Curb the Gender Wage Inequality in the UK

The effectiveness of existing measures to curb gender wage inequalities in the UK also emerged as another critical area of discussion in this study. This line of questioning was aimed at finding out the perceptions of the respondents’ regarding the effectiveness of past policies designed to reduce the gender wage gap in the UK. The respondents had a positive view of the progress made thus far with a majority of them agreeing that significant progress has been made to reduce the wage gap inequality in the country. However, with a mean of 3.85 for this response, the respondents did not have a strong conviction regarding the gains made so far. This statement means that more action could be taken to communicate the progress made by authorities in reducing gender wage gaps. Nonetheless, the informants demonstrated that gender wage inequality should be dealt with urgently. This response means that most of them were aware of the problem and recognised it as a “pressing” issue in the workplace.

The findings presented in this analysis support the views of other researchers who have demonstrated the effectiveness of existing policies in addressing the gender wage gap in the workplace. For example, articles authored by Ferragina (2019), Liu et al. (2017), Van der Lippe, Van Breeschoten and Van Hek (2019) have shown that significant progress has been made in reducing gender wage gap by implementing progressive policies that encourage employers to compensate their female colleagues in the same manner as their male counterparts do. Therefore, it can be argued that most of the policy measures adopted to reduce the gender wage gap inequality in the workplace have contributed towards solving the problem. Nonetheless, there are differences between studies that have investigated the same issue in developing and developed countries.

Most of the articles, which have explored wage gap inequalities from developed nations, suggest that a lot of progress still needs to be made to achieve a wage balance between the sexes (Mello, 2019; Anand, 2019; Blažytė and Žibas, 2019). However, in some western-countries, this balance is already reached with selected industries and cases of women earning more than their male counterparts do (Maroukis, 2016). In these countries, the policy environment directly supports gender pay equity. Therefore, it could be assumed that the findings of the respondents are consistent with those of other researchers.

In the UK, policies relating to the gender pay gap can be traced to the Equality Act 2010, which outlines guidelines that employers have to follow to reduce their gender pay gap. In one of the 2017 amendments made to this law, UK-registered organisations that have more than 250 employees are required by law to publish information relating to gender wage differentials (Gap Square, 2020). This policy amendment aimed to increase transparency in reporting pay gap issues, as the first step towards its management. This information has so far been used to generate data to manage the gender pay gap in the workplace (Downie, 2019). Therefore, the respondents’ views regarding the effectiveness of existing policies aimed at managing the gender pay gap are consistent with current literature on the effectiveness of such laws.

Attitudes Regarding Gender Pay Gap

Student attitudes regarding gender pay gap were assessed by investigating their views regarding who takes the greatest responsibility for reducing the gender wage gap. Stemming from this line of questioning, the informants said that government agencies and managers were responsible for reducing the gender pay gap. This statement means that they did not believe another party should take responsibility for the gap. Consequently, it can be assumed that the gender pay gap issue is a top-down management problem because employees only implement the wishes of their superiors in the workplace. Furthermore, organisations still have a lot of power in the labour market to determine employee behaviour (Schenner and Neergaard, 2019; Schoon, 2020). This attitude is reflected in the informant’s responses because they suggested that the government is the only body powerful enough to influence employers.

The role of the government in influencing labour relations has been documented in several studies, such as those authored by Ahmad (2020), Roy and Mukhopadhyay (2019). The history of the relationship between the government and employers has been best captured through labour union actions and developments, which have led to the establishment of minimum wages, leave days, health insurance benefits and other associated advantages of gainful employment (Umkehrer and vom Berge, 2020; Del Rio Loira and Fenger, 2019; Hu, 2018). The role of the government and trade unions in advancing some of the gains made cannot be ignored because employees have had their needs advanced through their associated bodies and institutions (Ennis and Walton-Roberts, 2018). The informants’ responses seem to reflect this fact by allocating the government the greatest responsibility of reducing the gender wage gaps.

According to the findings highlighted in section 4.0, the respondents gave moderate views regarding the urgency of addressing the gender pay gap. They also gave similarly “lacklustre” responses when they were asked about the progress made in reducing wage inequities, its importance in workplace growth and whether the gender pay gap is exaggerated because women choose the wrong careers. The range of mean for the responses was within 3.49 and 3.89, meaning that the informants “neither agreed nor disagreed” with the statements made. The only position that was associated with a high intensity of disagreement related to the causes of the gender pay gap because it attracted a mean of 2.77. Most of the respondents who took part in the study also believed that the best way to close the gender pay gap was to introduce more flexible work policies. This statement had a mean of 4.02 suggesting that most of the respondents agreed with this statement. Lastly, the students said they became aware of the gender pay gap through their work experience. This statement comes from the mean of 5.45, which was the highest across the dataset, suggesting that most of the respondents agreed with this statement.

Another area of assessment for investigating the respondents’ attitudes was in evaluating their perceptions of the causes of the gender pay gap. The qualitative findings provided rich information regarding this aspect of development. Data were obtained from the last item on the questionnaire, which sought the respondents’ views regarding gender pay gaps issues that stood out for them from their university degree programs. Only 42 people answered the subjective question and 17 of them said that, in the process of learning, they found it was justifiable for some companies to recruit male as opposed to female employees because men easily took business trips and required no pregnancy leaves.

Eleven of the respondents also said that men generally spend less time looking after their families and children than women do. Consequently, they have more time to work overtime to earn extra wages. They also believed that this situation also led to higher salaries for men who occupied the same positions as women did. Seven informants also admitted that men were more suited to work in some positions than women were. For example, they believed that jobs, which required physical strength to complete, were more suitable for men than women were because their dominant physiques enable them to complete the work faster. Lastly, seven of the respondents believed that there was no obvious gender pay issue in the UK.

Solutions for Closing the Wage Gap

The respondents’ belief in the government’s power to influence employer actions were consistent with the nature of solutions proposed by the informants to reduce wage differentials. To recap, the respondents proposed the need to raise the minimum wage as the most effective solution for reducing gender wage gaps in the workplace. The government is the only body mandated to undertake such a task. Therefore, this proposal is another example of allocating the responsibility of reducing wage differences to the government. It is consistent with the attitudes held by the informants regarding wage minimisation strategies. The role of management closely follows that of the government in addressing wage differentials because it was also mentioned as having a significant responsibility in standardising wages as well. However, it is unclear why the respondents did not mention employees as having any form of responsibility in the reduction of wage differences.

Broadly, the literature on developing solutions for reducing the gender wage gap proposes context-specific recommendations for reducing the differences. Furthermore, there are variations in proposals for recommendations adopted across various industries, which make it difficult to adopt standardised solutions for addressing gender wage gaps across organisations or industries. Therefore, there is a need to understand how proposed solutions fit the organisational or industry context. In this context of the review, the importance of adopting culturally appropriate recommendations is also highlighted in this document because wage gap differential is as much an economic issue as it is a political or social one. Therefore, the dynamism of factors to consider when developing improvement solutions need to be acknowledged as new recommendations are developed.

Summary

From the onset of this investigation, this study was aimed at examining how human resource management education contributes to students’ understanding of the gender pay gap in the UK. Four research objectives were designed to guide the investigation. They sought to understand students’ views regarding the causes of the gender wage gap in the UK, sample their reactions regarding the effectiveness of existing measures to curb the gender wage inequality in the country, evaluate their attitudes regarding gender pay gap and assess their views relating to solutions for closing the wage gap inequality.

The findings presented in this paper show that the research objectives were met through the identification of key solutions proposed by the students in managing gender wage differentials. Broadly, their views are consistent with those of other researchers who have investigated the same research phenomenon and the findings advanced in the literature review section of this document. However, it is important to acknowledge that new attitudes regarding the relationship between men and women in the workplace are forming among young people and they will spearhead the next phase of change in the workplace.

Overall, since the respondents believe that the government has the biggest responsibility of addressing this issue, the latter should lead from the front in minimising the opportunities for employers to exploit traditional biases against women to justify paying them low wages. Indeed, new attitudes are emerging from more students as they educate themselves about the failures of past policies and their willingness to develop new and more effective ones for future adoption.

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