The latest academic research, distilled and dissected. Mind the Gap, Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, ‘Cumulative gender disadvantage in contract employment’, American Journal of Sociology 114, no.4, 2009.
The wage gap between men and women at every stage of their careers has been the subject of countless studies that put the major blame for the gap on the fact that women spend less continuous time in the workplace than men, which results in men accumulating more firmspecific skills that bring promotions. In addition, there is some evidence of a history of personal bias by male managers that results in higher starting salaries for men and a glass ceiling for similarly qualified women.
Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Assistant Professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School, set out to examine the persistence of this gap, especially the increase in wage differentials over time. She explored the issue in the contract employment market, where formalised work practices are nonexistent — skills are not firm-specific, positions are temporary and shortterm, career paths do not exist and promotions do not occur — unlike in the corporate environment. In such a context, she reasoned, we should be hard pressed to find increases in wage differentials over time. And if we do find them, they cannot be due to the most common reasons that have been used to explain them in the past.
The full article Mind The Gap can be found in the Summer 2010 issue of Business Strategy Review.