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As discrimination between men and women continues in various forms across the world, equality between men and women remains a dream yet to come true. One of the most prevalent forms of discrimination is the wage gap, i.e. the difference in the salaries of men and women for doing comparable work: t men get higher wages as compared to women.

Over the course of the last few decades, major economic, social and demographic changes have brought about a radical transformation in the lives of both women and men. One of the most fundamental of these changes has been the massive influx of women into the workforce. Now, all across the world, women have succeeded in attaining high positions in many organizations. In some countries of the world, women have managed to reach the highest political positions as President or Prime Minister; moreover, women hold 22.6 % parliamentary seats in national assemblies (Archiven.d). However, despite an increased number of female employees in the paid labour force, the passage of various laws promising equality, as well as a long history of struggle by feminist movements, discrimination, especially in the form of a gender wage differential, still prevails in varying degrees throughout the world (Vincent 2013, 6).

The gender pay gap has become one of the most extensively researched topics, especially in the Western body of literature (Fransson and Biel 2000, 1-3). To understand the phenomenon under discussion, researchers have employed wide arrays of estimation techniques, models, and data. Ali and Akhtar (2014), in their research, show that the issue of wage discrimination exists not only in developing countries like Pakistan, but also in several other developed countries of the world like the USA, Canada and in European countries as well. Adamy and Overberg (2016) corroborate this finding in an article, which examined 446 major professions in the USA and found that differences in the earnings of male and female labour force is not specific to one occupation but exists in several professions, including both blue-collar and white-collar jobs. According to their data, women workers in almost 439 professions out of 446 in the USA are paid lower than men. The difference persists even when females hold white-collar jobs and elite professions like doctors, financial managers, financial advisers, judges, magistrates and lawyers, social sciences researchers, psychologists, statisticians, computer and software experts, and in different fields of engineering.

Research studies conducted across the world to uncover the factors liable for gender wage gap show that the pay gap is a complex phenomenon and is influenced by many structures of society, for example, social, economic, and organizational structures (Stevens, Bavetta and Gistlament 1993; Blau and Kahn 2006). Blau and Kahn, in their study of gender gap in the 1990s as compared to the 1980s in the USA, found that 60 % of the wage gap could be accredited to known factors: 10% to work experience, race/ethnicity 2.4 %, union status 4%, industry 27.4%, and 27% to choice of occupation or occupational segregation. A huge percentage (41.1%), however, remains unexplained and usually scholars relate it to direct discrimination.

This paper attempts to explore an under-researched area of the gender-gap, i.e., the attitudinal response of women in terms of accepting discrimination as inevitable or resisting and even challenging it. Accepting or challenging attitudes are important as they apparently have a relationship with the sustenance of the phenomenon under study. The acceptance of discriminatory practices might result in perpetuation of this phenomenon (Fransson and to Biel 2000), whereas a challenging attitude might be instrumental in reducing and ultimately eliminating this discrimination.

According to 'Global Employment Trends for Women' published by the ILO in 2012, Pakistan has one of the worst gender imbalances in terms of a gender pay gap. Despite government policies for creating gender balance, there is a clear gender pay gap in the private sector, with women on an average earning $436 per month, compared with men earning $506 per month (UNESCO Report 2015). Furthermore, according to the ILO Global Wage Report 2014/15, Pakistani women are paid less than their male counterparts and earn 38.5% less than men. An analysis by the Household Integrated Economic Survey of Pakistan (2010-11) cited by Ali and Akhtar (2014), found a drastic difference between the wages of men and women. According to this study, males earned US $ 117.50 per annum as compared to females who earned US $ 25.17.

Women's wages and earnings are at a critical stage with discrimination mounting at an accelerated speed. Thus, based on this huge discriminatory factor, the Annual Report on Gender Gap Index 2013 published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, Pakistan was positioned at 135th out of 136 countries, followed only by Yemen, and its score has fallen three steps since the study was conducted last year. The Global Gender Gap Index measures the 'relative gaps between women and men' across countries in four key areas - health, education, economics and politics. According to this report, Pakistan ranks second worst in women's economic participation and their access to opportunities for participation. Pakistan's gender gap index is 0.546 on a 0 to 1 scale, with zero denoting inequality and one denoting equality. Pakistan stands at the lowest level in the Asia Pacific countries where the Female to Male ratio of wage inequality for similar work is 0.31 (World Economic Forum 2013).

The above statistics clearly depict the dismal situation of female workers in Pakistan and suggest the need to investigate the phenomenon in detail through empirical research: the existence of a gender wage gap has now become a policy issue due to the increasing trend of women entering the workforce. Several studies have explored the extent of the gender wage gap in Pakistan. Using data collected by the Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES), the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM), the Population, Labour Force and Migration Survey (PLM), Pakistan Income and Household Data (PIHD) various surveys employ the Blinder and Oaxaca decomposition technique, as established by Blinder and Oaxaca (1973) which is quite often applied to such data. Moreover, a plethora of research conducted internationally depicting women's acceptance of discriminatory pay practices has also been conducted primarily on working students, whose situations might diverge from practical work place conditions. The present paper draws upon our research conducted to explore a neglected aspect of gender wage-gap, i.e. the reaction of female employees to the phenomenon under discussion, in an attempt to uncover the part (if any), it plays in the sustenance and perpetuation of wage-gap discrimination.

This research is focused on private-sector organizations where differences in wages of employees based on their gender is expected to be more pronounced, and hence more feasible for observing and recording the attitudes of women towards this phenomenon. Women in the private sector were chosen, as compared to women working in public sector organizations where the pay scales, increments and benefits are fixed for each cadre do not face wage discrimination (Ansari 2014). Thus, motivational factor of this research is that its findings, by way of delineating the factors contributing to perpetuate the discriminatory pay practices, may assist women employees as well as HR practitioners in being mindful of the issue when negotiating / devising compensation policies.

Literature Review

Change is not possible if the affected party accepts the injustice without raising her voice against it (Phelan 1994). In order to understand the reasons for perpetuation of the wage gap despite various legislative interventions aiming to promote equality in the work places, it is important to gauge the reaction of women towards the pay gap and determine whether they accept their inferior standing by accepting lower wages or whether they attempt to resist or challenge it.

An existing body of literature suggests that a majority of female employees accept the pay gap and do not raise their voices. A study conducted by Peng, Ngo, Shi, and Wong (2009) in Beijing shows that females accept a pay inequity in job rewards. Furthermore, several studies have also talked about the paradoxical situation in which female workers are satisfied with their salaries, however less they are, compared to those of their male colleagues. Khoreva (2012) mentions that research by many researchers (Crosby, Golding, and Resnick 1983; Phelan and Phelan 1983) explain that women are not only satisfied with their jobs but are also very committed to the organizations they work for, despite less wages, fewer promotion opportunities and harassment at the job place. Khoreva's conclusion that 'female employees tend not to perceive an income differential in the first place' becomes more startling when she further adds that despite pay disparities, female employees continue to be 'highly committed towards their organizations'.

A gender pay gap is not an experience of women workers in countries with slow economies; it persists in Western societies as well because both men and women consider lower earnings for female employees compared to higher pays for male employees to be fair. Two different theoretical approaches explain "legitimate" wage gaps: same-gender referent theory and reward expectations theory. The first approach states that women compare their lower earnings primarily with that of other underpaid women; the second approach argues that both men and women value gender as a status variable that yields lower expectations about how much each gender should be paid for otherwise equal work (Auspurg, Hinz and Sauer, 2017).

Ronan, while explaining the importance of pay, observes that though dissatisfaction with low pay is one of the major reasons for which an employee leaves an organization, but his research findings show that women are more satisfied with their low wages as compared to their male counterparts (1967). Thus, less salary was not a source of dissatisfaction for females and they accepted it happily. Studies have attempted to find out possible causes that make women accept the pay gap. One possible reason of acceptance is that women usually opt for self-discouragement by underestimating their abilities (Lenney, 1977). Researchers (e.g. Major and Konar, 1984; McFarlin, Frone, Major and Konar 1989; Jackson, Gardner and Sullivan, 1992) argue that usually women have lower pay expectations than men and are prone to think that they deserve lower salaries as compared to men. A survey of undergraduate students by Martin (1989) noted that women's expectations for salary were 32 percent lower than those of men for the same jobs.

The traditional social mores and cultural paradigms that shape women's psyche often make them more accepting of what is offered to them. Usually women are not aware of their value or potential because of stereotypical gender roles, societal norms, less job switching, less training and learning. Men on the other hand, are more aware of their importance and of their market value (Babcock and Laschever 2003). Thus, women, having lower wage expectations, are satisfied with lower wages and do not negotiate for higher wages. Even well educated women display such an attitude when it comes to demanding higher wages and might even give higher wages to other colleagues as compared to themselves, as they undervalue themselves and do not consider themselves suitable for higher wages. This behaviour is testified to by Callahan-levy and Messy's study that women paid themselves a lower salary than they paid to their colleagues, including both males and females, because "females are socialized to have a weaker sense of their own equity" (1979, 14). Furthermore, women's social learning does not let them speak for their rights; hence the pay gap persists. A study by the International Labour Organization, conducted in the Jordanian private education sector, shows that respondents consisting of school administrators, teachers and support staff were of the view that men, as breadwinners of the family, deserve higher wages as compared to women who usually do not have the main responsibility for maintaining the household (2013). The situation becomes graver when women lack awareness about their rights.

Encouragingly however, evidence emerges that women are becoming aware of their right to speak up and negotiate for higher or comparable salaries and instead of accepting the inequality, react against it. This shift is exemplified in a recent survey conducted by Glassdoor (2016) on employees in seven countries with large global economies, namely the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland. In this survey, female respondents declared that they would not work in an organization where a gender pay gap exists.

Objectives of this research

This research study aims to investigate the situation of women's attitudes toward a gender pay gap in the context of Pakistan, a developing country, where the high index of Power Distance (Hofstede 1984) enhances the prospects of gender-based discrimination. Empirical data from the private Telecom sector of Pakistan has been analyzed to answer the following research questions:
How do women react to discriminatory pay practice? Do they accept the
pay gap or attempt to challenge it?
What are the underlying reasons for their accepting or challenging
attitudes towards the disparity?

Research Methodology

The population of this study consists of female employees working in the private telecom sector of Pakistan. The reason for choosing a private-sector organization was that in the public sector, the pay scales, increments and benefits are fixed for each cadre (Ansari 2014), whereas private sector organizations may not be practicing equal pay for equal work. This study expected to see a pay gap across genders and find an opportunity to gauge the accepting or challenging attitudes of females towards pay inequity. The respondents were chosen with an equal / comparable level of education as well as tenure (having at least a Bachelor's degree and a minimum of three years experience) so as to counter the effect on their salaries caused by human capital difference, e.g. education and tenure. The respondents were selected through purposive sampling (Teddlie and Yu 2007) to ensure that they were placed in an appropriate position to answer the interview questions and have the requisite information available. Data were collected until the saturation point where no new information was evident in the responses. A total of 20 respondents participated in the research. Respondents who were in the middle or higher levels of their careers usually had almost the same salary; evidently, the gap gradually increased as they progressed in their careers.

Data Collection and Analysis

The research strategy adopted for this study was qualitative. Semi-structured interviews, consisting of about 10-14 questions, were conducted to gauge the experiences, opinions, expressions and thoughts of interviewees. For the interviews, conducted in a natural setting, both English and Urdu languages were used, depending on the comfort of the respondent. Interviews were tape-recorded. Observation notes were also also made which supplemented the recorded data. The data was later transcribed in English by the researcher, keeping the content as thoroughly original as possible.

Data were analyzed through a comparative analytic method (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and were read multiple times to identify major themes as related by the women. These themes were then compared with themes emerging from interviews of other respondents and were assigned an appropriate label or code. Data were reduced by grouping the similar codes under a theme.


As said before, this research was aimed gauging the response of women towards the gender based wage gap and determine whether they accept it uncontested or raise their voices against it. Furthermore, our work also aimed to identify factors, which women viewed as responsible for their acceptance or resistance towards the wage gap. In our research, women's reactions to the pay discrimination in their organizations fall under two major themes: Accepters and of Challengers, as explained below:


The empirical data of this research highlights that a large majority of women, i. e. 70%, accept the gender wage gap uncontested. Earlier, the findings of Kugler, Kaschner, Reif and Brodbeck (2013), while explaining the reason for omen's acceptance of injustice regarding salary, posited that as most women, when they initiate negotiations, have to face social resistance more than men do; therefore they avoid negotiations. When women feel that negotiation process is difficult because of the degrading behaviour of men towards them, such as not taking their concerns seriously, or when women presume that negotiations will not bring desirable results, for example, a desired increment in wage, they then avoid negotiations and prefer to remain silent. Reasons for women's accepting attitude appearing in the empirical data of this study are caused by the following factors:

Socialization norms

Women are trained to exhibit restraint and be covert in their behaviour from their early years. Such training has a contribution in making them less assertive at every stage of their lives. This characteristic is not specific to Pakistan, as Linda Babcock, et. al (2003), in their study of professionally qualified woman in the USA, show that the social training of women is such that they accept whatever is offered to them; because of prescribed societal norms, they do not try to negotiate. Instead of raising their voices for better pay, Babock et al., show that they "tend to assume that they will be recognized and rewarded for working hard and doing a good job. Unlike men, they haven't been taught that they can ask for more" (p. 14). Surprisingly, a female interviewee's casual remark that, "knowing I am the lowest paid manager; I have not talked to the management because I wonder, let it be, why to discuss it - they know I work hard."

The respondents of this study expressed "shyness or hesitation while asking for their right" which fits in with their socialization or acculturation norms and makes them accept whatever is being offered to them. One female respondent asserted, "Girls feel shy while asking about an increment in their salaries." Scholars, such as Martin (2007), also suggest that women usually accept lower wages, as they avoid negotiations regarding salaries and show less enthusiasm and motivation when it comes to negotiating for better salaries as compared to men.

Different priorities

Working females apparently have several other concerns that they rank higher than their remuneration, like security (from sexual harassment) which they often experience in their organization, the respect they get (interactional justice) and the flexibility they perceive in the working hours of their organizations. One female interviewee told me, "The culture of the organization matters a lot for us [women]. We go for respect, security and comfort and sacrifice other benefits _ like good salary." Since women, in most of the cases, are not the primary bread earners of their families, they care less for the equality of wages, especially in comparison to their male counterparts who, in their view, deserve higher pay as they have to support their families. As one female observed, "women usually do not have to run their homes so they do not do jobs for the sake of earning. Hence, they accept if they get paid less than men."

Family constraints

The corporate sector does not discriminate between a man and a woman when it comes to working and delivery of assigned goals and tasks; both males and females are expected to deliver in a timely fashion and be equally productive and dedicated to their work. Only those females get better remuneration who work like men, are available to perform official duties irrespective of time, and have no family restrictions on moving out of station or meeting clients. Most women, owing to their family responsibilities, are not able to work late hours and / or accept out of city postings or trainings because they have to take care of their children, husband and extended families along with the job (Ansari 2017). In such a scenario, females become sidelined when it comes to good increments or equal wages compared to male workers who are available all the time irrespective of official hours. A female manager told me, "Girls can't do late sitting. They have to leave for their homes in time. This [late working hours] goes against them." Another female mentioned, "Families do not allow girls to go everywhere and travel like boys. Boys can move out of the city, meet clients etc. Such hurdles cause discrimination in salaries of females."


Female respondents, especially those who reported that they have perceived the wage differential in their organization, were asked if they had ever spoken up for their rights and brought this issue to the consideration of management. Only 30% of the females, who perceived the discrimination in pay, responded in the affirmative and said that they raise their voices whenever they feel injustice and try to negotiate for their rights. Out of these 30%, only 10 % reported success in their negotiations, while in most cases, almost 90% of the time, management did not address the issue and took it very lightly. According to one female interviewee, "I have asked my management to give me a proper raise because I do my work with dedication and loyalty. It is not justified to do like that. But despite promises by top management at multiple times, nothing has been done till now." When faced with the discouraging or unrelenting attitude of the management, even challenging women develop the idea that they will not be heard and ultimately stop asking for their rights. This silence of women ultimately results in perpetuation of the gender wage gap, as management has learned the tactic of ignoring the issues raised by women; turning a deaf ear to their timid demands will ultimately stop women from pursuing issues and make them keep on working silently.

During the course of interviews, an interesting observation was made in which 80% of the females reported that they had not spoken out for their own rights but rather for the rights of other females _ a scenario in line with the social norm of speaking for the rights of others but not being greedy for oneself. A female manager mentioned that, "a girl worked at Huawei as an intern for 1.5 years. After being selected as a full-time employee, she was not offered a salary equal to that of her male colleagues. I fought for that girl and talked to my manager for her rights. But she finally resigned due to the injustice of not being given a proper salary."

Another female HR manager mentioned during the interview that she is not being given the same facilities as compared to male colleagues working at the same level. She explained that girls do try to discuss their issues related to salary, remuneration, and bonuses with their managers, and she also supports them. She said, "Yes there are many cases and I have also talked to management for many girls. I have always supported them." Apparently, when women notice the discouraging attitude of management towards women who challenge the injustice, they do not find courage to speak for themselves directly. Instead, they show their resentment about the discrimination by supporting other women who are being discriminated against.

Resigning from their respective organizations was an extreme reaction, which women displayed when their genuine concerns were not addressed and the management showed a lack of interest in resolving their issues. One female respondent narrated an incident in which the issue raised by her female colleague was not taken care of and she quit the job: "I know about a girl who used to work at a subcontractor firm. She was asking about her right regarding salary but her CEO turned a deaf ear to her genuine concern and finally she resigned. She was a very capable girl."


The findings of this research, which explored reasons for the perpetuation of a gender-based wage gap, identified two categories of responses of women, those who challenged and those who accepted discrimination without raising their voices. These findings are in line with several other research studies on this theme, which suggest that women usually accept the wage gap and do not challenge it. Almost 70% of the female respondents in this research mentioned that though they perceived wage differentials in their organizations, they did not raise their voices or take it up with the management. This research corroborates the findings of other studies (Peng, Ngo, Shi and Wong 2009; Crosby, Golding, and Resnick 1983; Phelan and Phelan 1983; and Smith and Plant 1982) that despite lesser wages as compared to men, women have neither raised voices for their rights, nor is their level of motivation and commitment to the organization lessened. This situation is termed as a "paradoxical situation of contended female worker" as coined by Crosby (1982). While giving justifications for their silence, the female employees we talked with postulated different reasons, like shyness to ask about a raise in salary, as well as the cultural/ social training of women, which teaches them to accept whatever is offered to them and not to speak up for their rights. Some respondents were also eloquent in arguing that women have different priorities as compared to men in regard to earning money.

Furthermore, another string of research suggests that women are concerned about their relationship with management and might not raise their voices for a better salary in order not to damage this relationship (Babcock and Laschever, 2003). Similarly, in line with this argument, the interviews conducted for this study showed that many women, since they were happy in their organizations, would not raise their voices about pay discrimination because they were on good terms with the management, and therefore "why to ask? leave it". At times, they just remain silent because they know from their experience that most often society reacts badly to women who try to exercise their rights. In light of the results of this study, we can say that women who raise their voices are labelled as having an "attitude problem" or thought of as "difficult to work with". It is pertinent to mention here that societal norms, childhood training and acculturation of women impel them to remain silent and accept injustice in order to avoid bad labels and show that they have little love for money.

However, the results also show that a sizable fraction of working women, almost 30% of them, raised their voices against the wage differential in different forms. A few of them raised their voices openly while others showed a covert way as they, instead of speaking up for themselves, supported other females who raised their voices. The results show a murky picture, as for a majority of those women who raised voice, their negotiations resulted in failure and management did not pay heed to resolving their genuine issue.

The results support the existing body of research that explains that women face resistance from management when they speak up for their rights. From the interviews, it was clear that those women who tried to challenge the wage gap, had to face resistance, as the management did not take any positive steps towards resolution of their grievances and negotiations resulted in failure most of the time. One possible reason for women's acceptance of inequity in pay can be attributed to the callous attitude and resistance from management towards complaints of women, as they do not take the women or their complaints seriously. Research by Babcock and Laschever (2007), Gerhard and Rynes (1991) and by Kaman and Hartel (1994) suggest that the feelings that women develop regarding their workplaces are that they will not be allowed to speak out against discrimination and that nobody would listen to their complaints or try to solve their issues. Furthermore, fear of failure of negotiations also makes women accept the pay gap. Results of this study show that even those women who perceived discrimination, or had experienced it, and wanted to raise their voices against it, found it hard to ask about it. One reason for this might be that they have assumed that nothing can change the prevailing practices of discrimination against women and that raising their voices would make no difference as they had seen the outcomes of the negotiations which other women had held with the management.

Almost 5% of the times when women failed to negotiate for equality in pay, they resigned from their jobs. This reaction of women goes in line with the findings of Huseman, Hatfield and Miles (1987) as cited by Khoreva (2012) who, while explaining equity theory, elucidated that when an employee perceives different and unfair treatment, she would feel violated in her rights and experience an increased tendency to quit her job.


The reaction of women towards the wage gap, as elaborated in relevant literature, is in line with the results of this research. It was evident that a majority of women did not raise their voices against discrimination and preferred to remain silent or accepted it by giving various excuses, such as the mindset of employers; different priorities which they have as women; their limitations, such as not giving extra time to care for their families; and their ingrained shyness to ask for more. However, a handful of women spoke up or at least, supported other women who stood up for their rights. A majority of vocal women did not get a positive response from their managements, and so either they quit their jobs or had to accept discrimination because they could not do anything about it. Acceptance of discriminatory practices can be accredited to the social training of women, which teaches them to compromise, be silent, not to speak for their rights, and not to give much importance to the monetary benefits attached to their employment, but rather to accept whatever is offered to them silently and without question.

Limitations and Scope for future research

Data for research were collected from local telecommunication organizations in Pakistan. Results might be different if the research carried out in multinational organizations having better HR practices. It is also possible that the individuals working in different industries / sectors might have different perceptions / experiences and may react differently to the gendered pay gap. There is room for conducting comparative studies across various different contexts to reinforce understanding of the cultural influences on women's attitudes and behaviours regarding gender discrimination.


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Qurrat-ul-Ain Qazi, the first author of this paper, graduated as an Electrical Engineer from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. She earned MPhil in Management Sciences from the Institute of Administrative Sciences, University of the Punjab. With more than 9 years of diversified experience, mainly in in the corporate sector, currently she is working as Deputy Director Planning in Planning and Development Department, Government of the Punjab.

Dr. Nighat Ansari, corresponding author of this paper, is an Assistant professor at the Institute of Administrative Sciences (IAS), University of the Punjab, Lahore. Her research interests include Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management with a special focus on gender issues. Email:

Dr. Amani Moazzam is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Administrative Sciences. Her research interests are Gender in Management, Diversity and Public Leadership.

Qurrat-ul-Ain Qazi

University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore,

Nighat G. Ansari & Amani Moazzam

Institute of Administrative Sciences University of the Punjab, Lahore
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Author:Qazi, Qurrat-ul-Ain; Ansari, Nighat G.; Moazzam, Amani
Publication:Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 1, 2018
Next Article:Women's History.

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