Analysis Of Gender Wage Gap From Sociological Perspective


The aim of this assignment is to elaborate upon the social problem of wage inequalities. More specifically, the discourse will establish how the wage difference between men and women is a persistence issue in contemporary society. The paper will try to analyse the phenomena through various theoretical perspectives. The theory of Gender Conflict and the Intersectionality Theory have been identified as relevant frameworks to analyse this situation. The paper will also compare and contrast these viewpoints and provide a critique of the accumulated literature. Lastly, the discourse will elaborate the researcher's personal perspective in order to answer the social question.

The Social Problem

The wage inequality between men and women is not a new issue. While the presence of this social problem is somewhat understandable in the past days, it still has not been eliminated during the contemporary times either. According to Card et al. (2016), most business firms utilise firm-specific pay premiums to pay almost 10% less wages to women. Casado-Díaz & Simón (2016), establish that women are systematically paid less than men in the tourism and hospitality industry, as most of them have to work with part-time contracts and low qualifications. Patten (2016) has managed to find some progress in mitigating this problem in a country like the US, but even now the problem persists voraciously in the market. Even from a racial perspective, the men of Caucasian origins earn more than women of any races in this country.

Similar findings are found by Albrecht et al. (2018) in the Swedish industries where the problem persists for the high-skilled women, especially if they are a parent. Canadian business entities also contribute to these social problems. Schirle (2015) has managed to showcase the gender wage gap persisting across different sectors in all of the Canadian provinces for 17 long years. In short, the relevant literature points toward a social issue, which can also be labelled as a social phenomenon. The gender wage difference remains active in almost every corner of this world; and it is important to understand the reason behind this factor.

Relevant Theories

In order to analyse the relevant issue, one has to utilise relevant theories. In this scenario, two major theories can give one a better perspective about the persistent social issues. First, there is the Conflict Theory or, more specifically, the Gender Conflict Theory by Harriet Martineau. The general Conflict Theory, which was first elaborated by Karl Marx, states that society, as an entity, is always under conflict and social order can only be maintained through power and domination. Martineau’s take on this Conflict Theory is more feministic in nature as she tries to implement the theory to analyse the overall relations between different genders. The theorist herself was a female writer during the Victorian era, with her writings influencing key political figures such as Queen Victoria. Martineau managed to observe various social patterns during her travel through America, Ireland, Egypt and the Middle East (Logan, 2015). The Gender Conflict Theory suggests that men, as the dominant genders, want the women to remain subordinated to them. The subordination of women allows the men to retain their power over the society. In order to assert their dominance, the men have managed to generate social structures that continue to encourage and perpetuate inequalities between the two genders. Even though Martineau's concepts are from the Victorian era, her relevancy has not diminished that much at present, even though there are not many discussions about the theorist’s viewpoints. However, utilising the theorist’s viewpoint on the gendered conflict, it can be established that paying lower wages to women allows men to keep the other group subdued and powerless. Fredrich Engels has managed to elaborate upon the idea from a Marxist point of view, establishing women as the proletariat and men as the bourgeoisie.

Another, more recent theory is the Intersectionality Theory. It was primarily suggested by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. From a general perspective, Intersectionality can be identified as the interconnected nature of various social elements such as race, class and gender. Most of these elements overlap and stay dependant of each of other, leading to social factors such as discrimination. In other words, the gender gaps faced by women may be the result of various overlapping social elements such as race or sexual orientation. Crenshaw (1989) has managed to elaborate upon this issue by analysing legal cases where she establishes that black women can be subjected to discrimination on the basis of both her gender and her ethnicity. In other words, Intersectionality makes the simple issue of gender gap a multi-layered social problem. The importance of Intersectionality as a concept has been elaborated by de los Reyes (2017). She states that the gender wage gap in the workplace may not simply arise from the issue of gender difference as elements such as age, race, nationality, physical disabilities, economic background, sexual preferences all can contribute to this persistent social problem. Therefore, it can be stated that Intersectionality Theory provides a little deeper perspective at gender discrimination than the Gender Conflict Theory.

Compare and Contrast

Now that the discourse has established two relevant theories of the business entity, it will compare and contrast these viewpoints accordingly. First, let us look at the relevant elements of the theory. Martineau, in her theory, has focused only on three elements, men, women and the power dynamic between them. There is essentially no consideration of other social elements as economic background, races, sexual preferences, nationalities or others. While it is understandable why her theory does not consider elements of racism and sexuality, her theory may still seem a bit simplistic. If one considers only the Gender Conflict Theory to analyse the issue of wage difference, one can only establish that the lower wages keep the women less influential in society and workplaces. However, the Intersectionality Theory provides a little more context to the relevant social issue. Craneshaw (1989) has managed to integrate a plethora of social issues, all of which might contribute to the wage difference. This viewpoint gives a little more depth to the problem than the previous theory. Furthermore, the Intersectionality Theory is slightly similar to Max Weber’s concept of Verstehen, where the human behaviours are subjected to empathic analysis to gain more insight about certain behaviours. It forced the sociologists to consider various social elements such as religion or nationality to understand any social phenomenon. In the case of Intersectionality, this viewpoint has been further elaborated by considering the interdependence of each of these social elements.

The Gender Conflict theory is essentially Marxist in nature, where the male figures are positioned at the upper echelon and the female figures are at the lower part. The men try to remain the dominant group in order to maintain the already established social order. Lower wages can be established as a means to retain that kind of power over the female populace. Therefore, even if a male employee and female employee work in a similar position, the female worker will get lower wages, giving her both economic and social disadvantages. It makes the women very much like the proletariat group as identified by all the Marxist theories, as the proletariat are disadvantaged, poorer than the other class (men) and disorganised. On the other hand the Intersectionality Theory is not explicitly based on any sociological theory. Sure it establishes the importance of class in gender issues, but it also gives similar importance to other social elements such as race, nationality etc. The relevant theorist has not stated that the society is divided into two distinct classes, but establishes that the division of people within society is a multi-faceted matter. The social position of a person is determined through the integration of different elements. For example, in the case of an African-American woman, her social position will be determined by the fact that she has dark skin colour and she is a woman. The discriminatory act against her may not be limited to gender factor but to racial factor as well. Therefore, this theory acknowledges the complexity of the society.

Critical Analysis

It is important to establish how adequately these two theories can analyse the issue of gender wage gap. Let us consider the Gender Conflict Theory first. According to Bystrova & Gottschalk (2015), the rules and regulations within a society will always remain biased in favour of the powerful, if one considers the Conflict Theory to be the relevant social framework. From that said perspective, it becomes obvious why the gender wage exists. The financial element between the men and women relate to the social power, which always has to remain in favour of men. Therefore, the female will always get paid less. In other words, the primary element of Conflict Theory is its rigid class structure. However, society is always in a state of flux, which means society is always going through changes. This phenomenon is called Social Change. According to Dunfey (2019), the collective powers of individuals may bring sociological changes in the long run, which dispute the established social structure of Harriet Martineau. It can be established that the overall social views against certain issues have undergone drastic changes over the years. One such example is the normalisation of LGBTQ community (2019). Therefore, the overall concept of Gender Conflict Theory can be seen to be slightly problematic. However, one cannot deny from the relevant literature that men remain more financially well off than women in the workplace.

Let us also discuss Intersectionality Theory. The theory has been becoming more relevant in recent years as it aligns with the concept of Social Changes. The interrelated social elements are not established to be constant but subject to change. Considering this structure, each case of gender discrimination for workplace wages becomes a unique matter. A woman can be discriminated against for her nationality, her ethnicity, her sexual preference etc. Therefore, the gender wage gap becomes a complicated issue, which might as well be evolving with the changing viewpoints of members of the society. However, the main issue of this theory is its complexity. Wage gap is a worldwide issue, which means the discrimination happens on the basis of different social elements (Crenshaw, 1989). In other words, the causes of gender wage in Canada may not be similar to the causes of gender gap in Sweden. The theory makes it more difficult to find the root cause of the social problem as one has to consider a large number of social elements.

Personal Perspective

It has been established that the wage difference between men and women is a real social issue from a global perspective. It can be difficult to determine the cause of it, mainly because society is usually under a state of constant changes. However, one cannot deny that the problem of the wage difference has remained constant; so there can be certain elements in the society, which refuses to go away even with the society’s transformation. The sociological difference between men and women remains the same as the inherent beliefs place the female workers under their male counterparts. Therefore, even if one considers the various social elements from Intersectionality Theory, one needs to understand how these elements are still leading up to the discrimination against women in the workplace. In short, a synthesis of the two discussed theories has to be utilised to gain better understanding.


In conclusion, the social problem is global in nature as the relevant literature has found gender wage differences in countries like Sweden, Canada and the US. In order to analyse this issue, one can consider both Gender Conflict Theory by Harriet Martineau or the Intersectionality Theory by Kimberle Crenshaw. While the former theory points toward the Marxist structure of a society for the main cause of this discrimination, Crenshaw identifies various social elements such as ethnicity, nationality, religion etc., all of which can contribute to the wage difference. However, both theories can be problematic, the first one for its simplistic viewpoint of social order and the second for its inability to come up with a common cause for the selected social issue.

16 December 2021
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