Magoosh GRE

Gender equality in the workplace

| August 11, 2016

Gender equality in the workplace – How does the supposed gender pay gap between male and female employees affect effectiveness and motivation within the workplace?


An investigation of the ‘gender pay gap’ – the notion that men are paid more than women for doing the same job. A literature review oversees the subject area, looking at different definitions  of the concept, and what they have in common.  The impact of the pay gap is considered, and the extent to which employees are even aware of a difference between men and women’s pay. Causes of this difference are examined, and two theories of employee motivation are discussed. The literature review sets the context for the primary phase of this study, which looks at employees of Nestle and assesses their awareness of the gender pay gap. The study examines what factors motivate men and women, and looks at how the gender pay gap impacts on their performance in work.

1. Introduction

The gender pay gap is also known as the ‘gender wage gap’ (Mutari, 2003). The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) defines it as ‘’the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings’’ (2011). Likewise, the European Justice commission calls it the ‘’the average difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings’’ (2010). Traditionally, there have discrepancies in the treatment of men and women at work, both in terms of financial remuneration, recruitment, selection for promotion etc. (ACAS, 2011). This latter was of particular concern as the differences in pay for the same type of work were quite vast. In 1975, for example, statistics found that the gender pay gap based on a median of the hourly earnings of full time employees was 28.7 %. (Perrons, 2008).

The apparent of this injustice, lead to the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 1970. The act aimed to prevent ‘’discrimination as regards terms and conditions of employment between men and women’’ (EPA, 1970). It achieved some success with the gap being reduced to 10.2% in 2010 (ONS, 2010). However, despite the efforts of the Act, the Office of National Statistics report that women are still paid less than men on average across many industries (ONS, 2011). The Fawcett Society also report that on average women are being paid 15.5% less than men (2011) and it appears that this imbalance will be the norm for many years to come. Some analysts even predict that it will take up to 98 years for the imbalance to be corrected based on current statistics (Chartered Management Institute, 2011).

This situation has a number of consequences, perhaps the most critical being that some may feel discriminated against by their employers just because of their gender. Consequently, their motivation to work may be diminished as the perception will be that they are not being adequately compensated in their positions, so there is no point in working hard. The factors which impinge on motivation and productivity at work place have been explored by many scholars (for example Spector, 1997, Walby and Olsen 2002). One conclusion is that it may be affected by employee perceptions of the fairness and adequacy of their salaries (Kim and German, 2004). If the latter view is correct, then it follows that the productivity and motivation of women in the workplace is affected by the discrepancies in pay with their male counterparts.

The following study sets out to investigate the gender pay gap in more detail. A literature review oversees the subject area, looking at different definitions  of the concept, and what they have in common.  The impact of the pay gap is considered, and the extent to which employees are even aware of a difference between men and women’s pay. Causes of this difference are examined, and two theories of employee motivation are discussed. The literature review sets the context for the primary phase of this study, which looks at employees of Nestle and assesses their awareness of the gender pay gap. The study examines what factors motivate men and women, and looks at how the gender pay gap impacts on their performance in work.

2. Research Aims and Objectives

The purpose of this report is to investigate whether female productivity and efficiency in the workplace is affected by the ‘gender pay gap’. I will consider the impact of the wage gap on both genders for comparative purposes. Most studies of the gender pay gap are focused on how women are affected by the subject, at the expense of the male perception of the phenomenon. I think it will be interesting to consider both perspectives as it enhances the quality and validity of the report.  The subject will be investigated by a literature review, looking at the concept generally, and ideas generated through this review will be tested in a small primary study.

Specifically, the objective of this report is to;

  • Determine the motivating factors for both men and women, particularly factors associated with pay and performance
  • Investigate the reasons behind unequal pay between genders
  • Discover the extent to which employees are aware of the gender pay gap both in general and at their place of work.
  • Find out the effect of gender pay discrepancies on the productivity and attitudes of women at work.


3. Literature Review

3. 1 The Gender Wage Gap: Definitions, Descriptions

The concept of the ‘Gender Wage Gap’ (GWG) is easy to understand. The term has been defined by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe as “the difference between average monthly earnings of male employees and of female employees” (UNECE 2012). Many other definitions use the hourly pay of men and women as a point of comparison, with the gender pay gap defined as “the ratio of women’s average gross hourly wage to men’s gross average hourly wage” (Chant  2010, p. 415). While the definition seems relatively straightforward, differences between various concepts have implications for our understanding of the problem: the EU definition, for example, includes payments for overtime, while the UK definition does not (House of Lords 2010). Such differences in definition mean that the EU seems to have a bigger GWG than the UK.   Not only do definitions differ by country, they have also changed over time  (Steinmetz 2011).

Despite some variation in definitions, there is general agreement that the concept of a difference between the amount men and women are paid is valid.   A number of scholars have noted the substantial differences between the salaries of men and women within the same organisations (Groshen 1991, Petersen and Morgan 1995). At the same time,  men earn more than women on a national average basis. For example, in 2010, the gap in the median hourly pay between men and women was 10.2% (Office of National Statistics, 2010). The biggest gaps are in occupations like metal manufacturing and financial series brokerage where the gap is nearly 50%. This is one of the highest gaps in Europe and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) report that the UK wage gap is a third higher than the European Union Average (2008).    These occupational differences are related to the ways in which certain professions are more or less female or male dominated. For example, in the UK, women have historically tended to work in administrative, secretarial and service occupations, and men in skilled trades, process and machinery related occupations, although these demarcations have become less pronounced over the last 50 years (Gregg and Wadsworth 2011).

As well as differences by industry and occupation, different countries seem to have greater or smaller GWG (although this might, in part, relate to different definitions).  For example, during the mid 90’s, the GWG was 10% in France, 24% in the USA and 36% in Japan (Free 2010).  The difference between pay can also vary according to whether low waged or higher-waged men and women are compared, for example in the USA and UK the gap between men’s and women’s pay increases as levels of pay increase (Cooke 2011).   Changing times have also affected the GWG.  Within the USA, there was a gap of 45% between men and women’s pay in the early 70s; by the late 90’s this had fallen to under 30%. Other developed countries mirror this fall (OECD 2008).  At least part of the reason for the change has been the introduction of legislation designed to promote equality in the workplace. Within the UK the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970, and the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975.  The introduction of the National Minimum Wage in 1999 also boosted pay rates for many women (Tu 2005).   The UK took the lead in assuring better rights for women in regards to pay and work in the 70’s. The Equal Pay Act gave people the right to equal pay and benefits regardless of their sex, while the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender or marital status. More generally, European-wide directives also had a gradual impact upon the GWG (Geyer et al 2005).

 3. 2 Reasons for Gender Wage Gap

Several reasons have been given to explain the discrepancy between men’s and women’s pay, some more convincing than others.  Olsen and Walby say biological differences in the genders are one reason (2004). Anderson et al (2001) note that biological determinist argue “that women are inherently smaller, weaker and less intelligent” and are therefore suited for certain jobs. For example, men perform better in industries like construction and engineering as they are often more built for jobs that require heavy manual labour, while the perception is that women are more suited to jobs which allow them to use their innate nurturing ability. Proponents of the biological theory are challenged by academics like Horney (1973) and Thompson (2003) who argue that the perception of the society explains why women are often pushed into certain occupations. An offshoot of the gender differences theory is that certain personality traits are common in different genders. The stereotype is that men are usually more assertive and confident than women and therefore are able to successfully negotiate higher salaries while women chose not to.  Overall, this viewpoint is unconvincing.  While it is certainly the case that many men are more physically suited to taxing manual labour, such jobs represent an increasingly minute proportion of all available work.  Moreover, while the idea that women are somehow innately better at nurturing has been recently fashionable in socio-biology and similar disciplines, this is by no means uncontroversial. For example, a considerable body of research has suggested that gender-specific behaviours are indoctrinated at a very early age, rather than being innate (David 2001).

Others take different approaches to explain why the gender wage gap has come about. Bagilhole (2009) for example blames working time preferences between the genders. A lot of women work part time (OECD, 2007) so it follows that, on average their salaries will be less than that of their male counterparts who work full time. Killingsworth (1987) refers to this as a compensating differential. However, when we consider that working part-time is sometimes not a preference but a necessity for women with children, then this explanation can be challenged on grounds of fairness. Conversely, the decision to have children is a choice and Polachek (1981) notes that women chose occupations with lower work profiles for child rearing reasons. This point is further illustrated by statistics which reveal that 30% of female graduates expect to take a career break on account of children while only 2% of male graduates expect to (Chevalier, 2004).  While this argument goes some way towards explaining the GWG when it is based on average earnings, it does not, however, explain the difference when it is calculated on hourly rates.

Another hypothesis is that the gender wage gap is caused by employer discrimination against women, and is part of a wider social issue about women’s position.  Grimshaw and Rudberry (2004) note that women tend to be compensated less than men for doing the same work and that most of the time, the jobs women do are characterised by lower wages. The Fawcett Society (2011) goes further to state that men’s work is usually given a higher value than the jobs traditionally undertaken by women such as cleaning and catering. It could be argued that jobs like construction which require heavy manual labour should be compensated more than traditionally female jobs like child care. However, scholars like Chevalier (2004) have noted that some employers do not even give women the opportunity to try for such jobs, and would rather pay a premium to hire men than women.  An extension of this theory suggests that women have reduced bargaining powers compared to men, and hence are less able to negotiate wage rises for themselves. This theory links the differential to the role of the unions. If men are in the majority in the workforce, the union leaders are more likely to try and appeal to men, as they are the ones who will vote them back into power. Women, as the minority group in the workforce, find no support from others to give them a bargaining voice (Heywood and Peoples 2006). This view seems unlikely however, given the vocal commitment to women’s equality expressed by contemporary trade unions.

Another explanation for the gender pay gap is education and work experience (Blau and Kahn, 2000). It was found than on average men are more qualified than women. This is a factor that can be considered as an objective determinant of pay. Work experience and educational attainment vary from person to person and it is usually the case that the person with the most relevant experience gets paid more. Harmon and Walker (2001) observed that the differences between wages are higher by 7-9% per year of education in the UK. Therefore, if men are usually more qualified there will be differences in the average pay between genders. Notably, the gender pay gap caused by differences in educational levels is closing as more highly educated young women enter the labour market (Office of National Statistics, 1998). However, the gap continues to exist among older people who find it difficult to retrain.

In addition to the above, a recurring theme is the negative effect pay differences have on female productivity in the workplace (Wilson and Hoagarth, 2003, Yeandle, 2006, Walby and Olsen, 2002). Under this argument, there is a vicious circle created by pay differentials, which lead to reduced job satisfaction, which in turn decreases commitment to the organisation and productivity. Olsen contends that employer discrimination against women creates a failure in the labour market as the best candidates are not necessarily being chosen for work. Also, employer discrimination is “a form of rigidity that may depress women’s potential productivity levels, if it means that, for example, there are miss-matches between women’s skills and experience and the jobs they are doing” (Olsen, 2002).

Finally, it has also been argued that employers are not discriminating against employees at all, but rather the gender wage gap can be examined by differing motivations between the genders. Clark (1997) found that men placed greater value on financial remuneration than women, who seemed to prefer intrinsic aspects of the job such as working relations and the nature of the work itself. As mentioned earlier, this report will consider various views on the gender pay gap and further explore the link between the phenomenon and workplace productivity.

3.3 Impact of Gender Pay Gap

From the above, it is clear that the gender pay gap exists, although less markedly than in the past. A number of reasons have been proposed for its existence.   This section looks at research into the impact of the pay gap on both men and women. While there is considerable research about the gender pay gap and what causes it, there is less empirical evidence about the impact the gap has on employees, particularly women. Relatively few studies look at whether it makes women less satisfied with their work and hence less productive.

One complicating factor is despite there being clear evidence of the existence of different pay for men and women, not everyone is aware of the gender pay gap. Many people simply do not see it at all (Blackaby et al 2005; Lange 2008). Whether individuals are aware of it or not might be a function of whether they see pay differences in terms of differences they can rationalise, such as experience of the job or education level, or in terms of inequality between people (Khoreva 2011). Khoreva suggests that as there is a discrepancy between the existence of an (arguably unfair) gap between men and women’s pay on the one hand and women’s awareness of that gap, there is a need for wider awareness of the gap to be promoted. She suggests that both media and government have a responsibility to increase awareness of the gap, and to increase awareness of rights to equal pay (Knoreva 2011).  However, this conclusion is questionable: if individuals are happy with their present pay, or ascribe gaps between their pay and that of other colleagues as a function of differing rank or job specifications, what can be gained by making them less happy with the situation? Certainly from an organisational point of view, it could be argued that women workers would be less satisfied in their job if more aware of the gap, and hence that corporate efficiency would be reduced.

Different studies of perceptions of the gender pay gap have reached different conclusions. Lange (2008) found that women may only be aware of a gap between their pay and that of men if they feel their situation fits that of an accepted gender pay gap stereotype.  Jackson and Grabski (1988) felt that women play down the importance of the gap by assuming other features of work are more important.

We have seen, above, that different countries have different measurements and definitions of the gender pay gap. In addition, different legal, political and cultural conditions in different countries mean that seems likely that the pay gap exists in different forms, and is perceived differently by workers. Okpara (2006) for example looks at awareness of the gender pay gap amongst finance workers in Nigeria, and assesses the extent to which perceptions of difference influence job satisfaction.  In Nigeria, women are only recently being promoted to higher positions within the banking industry, although strict apportionment of suitable jobs by gender is breaking down.   He found that men are more satisfied with the gender pay gap than women, and more satisfied in their position generally.  However, while his study is a valuable contribution to an under-researched area,   his results are somewhat disappointing. It is only to be expected that people who do best out of a gender pay gap will be more satisfied with the position than those who are paid less.  Okpara highlighted this, but gave little attention to the finer details of how women workers in finance in Nigeria understand the gap, what they attribute it to, whether they think it should change, and so on. He simply mentions that “they see the gap as unfair because they attribute its existence to discrimination” (Okpara 2006).  Greater exploration of their perceptions would have been useful here.

Few researchers have so far attempted to develop a theoretical model to help understand the perceptions of the gender pay gap. However Khoreva (2011) suggests that an extensive framework, taking into account factors at individual, organisation and society levels, needs to be developed to understand the ways in which the gender pay gap is perceived.   Her model is a useful one against which to compare the results of the present study.   At the individual level, she points out that employee perceptions are shaped by a range of factors including orientation towards gender role, pay expectations, age, gender, marital status and education.   For example, pay expectations mean that how a person perceives the ways in which others are rewarded for work, and are influenced by whether that person feels they have opportunities equal to those of others. Social comparison theory (Festinger 1954), the idea that expectations are determined by the way individuals see themselves in regards to others, has been used to explain the mechanisms of how people have different expectations regarding pay (Khoreva 2011).   At organisational level, the typical breakdown between men and women employees in that industry sector and the status of the job within the industry affect the way individuals respond to the gender pay gap. For example, if men predominate in an industry, the discrepancy between men and women’s pay is more accepted. Finally, at society level, the wider gender role, the extent to which a welfare state exists, and conventions surrounding work-life balance are important in shaping perceptions (Khoreva 2011).

Khoreva further suggests that there are testable differences in the way different groups of people perceive the gender pay gap. She believes that women see a gap less than men do, that younger people are less aware of a gap than older workers, that married workers are less aware of the gap than single ones and  that the more highly educated are more aware of the gap.  Additionally, and at the organisational level, people working in female-dominated industries are less aware of the gender pay gap than those in male dominated ones.  These suggestions have been used to shape the analysis of the results of this study, below.

Additionally, Till and Karren (2011) suggest that perceptions of organizational justice influence the extent to which individuals are satisfied with their pay.  While their discussion is not specific to the gender pay gap, the notion of the ways in which organisational justice are perceived is useful for the current study.   They point out that satisfaction with pay has been frequently ascribed to perceptions of fairness and comparisons with others pay (Heneman and Judge, 2000; Wu and Wang, 2008), and also suggest that both internal factors (perceptions of equality and justice in pay) and external ones (the extent to which pay is in fact allocated fairly) are important. In terms of this study, the implication is that the way the gender pay gap is perceived will depend both upon the extent to which such a gap exists in an organisation, and how individuals personally perceive the situation.

3.4 Performance, Achievement and Motivation

One of the reasons for the gap between men and women’s pay, it was suggested by Clark (1997) is that men are more influenced by financial rewards in employment, with women being influenced by the intrinsic job characteristics. This is supported by Donohue and Heywood (2004) who found that women are less troubled by comparing their pay to others than are men, and also are less motivated by how much money they are paid.  Additionally, Chevalier (2007) suggests that women are less competitive than men, less oriented towards a career as a sense of self worth, and more concerned about others.

This section will look at this idea.   In order to fully understand the concept, it is necessary to look at the relationship between motivation and performance within an organisation. One way of understanding this, and a way which sheds light on Clark’s theory, is Herzberg’s theory of hygiene and motivating factors, and Maslow’s theory of psychological needs, which has been heavily influential in understanding individual’s performance within an organization.  Maslow’s work was carried out in the 1960’s and 70’s, but remains influential as a way of theorising motivation. He saw people as goal-oriented, and definable in terms of their needs. He suggests that people’s needs can be understood as a pyramid. That is, basic needs for food and warmth – physiological needs – are at the bottom of the pyramid, and these need to be satisfied first. Subsequently, different levels  of need are addressed: the need for shelter, social needs (affection and emotional bonds), esteem (to be respected by others) and finally the need for self-actualisation is at the top of the pyramid (the need for growth and development according to a self-defined plan) (Pride et al 2011). Maslow’s ideas have been very influential in thinking about business organisations and motivation (Schneider et al 2001). By introducing the idea that people have different types of needs, which are met in different ways, Maslow opened the way to explore the idea that organisations can address the efficiency of its employees through ensuring that these different types of need are met. Herzberg developed this notion further, and wrote specifically of the organisational context. He put forward his theory as way of understanding motivation and job satisfaction. His ideas were based on empirical research carried out in the USA amongst engineers and accountants (Sapru 2006). Herzberg refined the theory of needs, suggesting that there are two types of needs employees have, and two approaches by organisations seeking to fulfil these needs. The two types Herzberg called ‘hygiene’ and motivating’ factors. That is, some needs are a necessary condition of motivation, but do not in themselves make employees motivated in their work. Other types of needs, when fulfilled, lead to employee satisfaction.   ‘Hygiene’ factors are predominantly external conditions, and include pay and remuneration, job security, working conditions and status. Factors which motivate can be seen as ‘internal’ or subjective and include the need for achievement, personal development, for work to be challenging, responsibility and recognition (Weihrich and  Cannice 2010).

Herzberg did not apply these ideas to the differences between the genders and the impact on the gender pay gap.   However, later writers, including Clark (1997) have suggested that men are more influenced by hygiene factors, particularly pay, which goes some way towards explaining the existence of a pay gap between the genders.  For example, a large-scale study of motivation and work (Schneider and Waite 2008) found that women are more motivated by internal job characteristics including extent to which job is challenging, social support, and the opportunity to make a positive contribution to a field. Men, on the other hand, are more motivated by pay and the opportunity to further their career (Pinker 2008).  This seems to be reiterated by other studies elsewhere in the world: for example a recent Czech study suggested that men are to some degree more motivated than women by career prospects and bonuses (Vaskova 2006).  Montmarquette et al (2002) also points out that men select subjects to study at university based upon perceptions of financial return for risk, with men more willing to take a risk with a higher return as reward. Women also choose more frequently to work in sectors traditionally offering lower pay, particularly the public sector (Chevalier 2004). However, care needs to be taken in accepting such evidence uncritically. As Robbins and Judge (2010) point out, results might simply reflect the way gender behaviour and preferences are stereotyped, with men expected not to care about social support in a role, for example.

3. 5 Summary

The literature review above has explored the concept of a gender wage gap, pointing out the different definitions and ideas which these differing definitions have in common. Despite differing ways of calculating the gap, it is clear that a difference between the pay of men and women exists.  This gap varies from sector to sector, and from country to country however, and these differences cannot by entirely accounted for through different calculation methods.  The various ways in which the gap has been understood have been looked at.  Models suggesting that biological differences are key seem unconvincing, but other models are more useful, including the idea that family commitments influence working time, that women are still discriminated against in society and the workplace, and that women have fewer qualifications than men. There is also a strong argument that a vicious circle exists: women react negatively to the perception that they are paid less well than men, and are hence less productive. There is also a good case for men and women having different motivation factors, although care has to be taken to ensure that prejudices about gender role are not imported into this perspective.  It is also clear that the gender pay gap has a number of consequences for the workplace, although not everyone is aware of it.   It seems, along with other factors, to  influence job satisfaction, motivation and productivity.   It seems also to be influenced by perceptions of organisational justice.

The literature review fed into the research questions which were investigated by this study. These can be defined as follows:

Are  women aware of  the ‘gender pay gap’?

Are  men aware of  the ‘gender pay gap’?

How do women perceive the ‘gender pay gap’, where they are aware of it?

How do men perceive the ‘gender pay gap’, where they are aware of it?

Is women’s productivity and efficiency in the workplace influenced by perceptions of the ‘gender pay gap’?

Are men more motivated by pay-related performance and achievement of targets?


4. Literature Review

4.1 Research Approach / Philosophy

The study has adopted a post-positivist research philosophy. Broadly speaking, post-positivism is an approach to research which accepts the insights of positivism, but which makes concessions concerned with the limits of human knowledge. Positivism was developed originally as a methodology for the social sciences by Comte (Lessem and Schieffer 2010). Positivist research adheres to a methodology based on science, testing defined hypotheses against evidence which is generally gathered in numerical format. It assumes that the world is objective of human beings and also that full knowledge of the objective world is possible. Post-positivist research shares the broad principle that reality is objective and knowable, but suggests that our knowledge is achieved through human subjectivity, that full knowledge is impossible, and that the specifics of the researcher’s perspective need to be acknowledged. It assumes that research findings are probable, rather than certain, and that truth can be reached only approximately (Crotty 1998). A post-positivist perspective has more scope for data other than the purely numeric, gathering qualitative responses and focussing upon textual descriptions of how respondents perceive situations (:Papathanassis 2004). Because this study looks at perceptions of the gender pay gap using both quantitative and qualitative data, a post-positivist approach was thought the most appropriate.

4.2 Data Collection and Analysis, Access Issues

The study takes the form of a case study of employees of the company Nestle.   The organisation was selected as they are a large and well-respected global organisation with a strong presence in the UK.  Nestlé UK & Ireland is a subsidiary of the larger organisation, Nestle SA, who specialise in nutrition, health and wellness products. Within the UK and Ireland, they employ 7000 employees across 19 sites, and have a brand portfolio including household names (Kit Kat, Go Cat and Smarties, for example).  They have a wide market reach, with over 2 billion products sold in the UK yearly and with 95% of UK households purchasing one or more Nestle brands ( 2011 [online]). Because the researcher had direct contact with two nestle employees in the company, who indicated they would help with the project, it was decided to use Nestle for the case study. Knowing employees meant that access issues, difficulties with contacting organisations in order to arrange interviews, were reduced. This made retrieval of information easier, as the two contacts at Nestle agreed to help the researcher access a sample unit of employees willing to give their perspective on the gender pay gap and how it affects their working life.

This study uses a mixture of  primary and secondary sources.  Secondary sources are existing studies, texts and similar collection of data which has already been collected. Primary studies are where information is collected specifically for the purposes of a particular study (Babbie 2010). Both types of data have advantages and disadvantages, and using a mixture of both is good for a well-rounded perspective on a subject (Stewart and Kamis, 1993). In the current study, the literature review consists of secondary sources. This allows the research questions to be defined in terms of the wider research context and existing theoretical studies. It also allows the results collected to be seen in terms of other research. There is also a practical consideration: time and financial constraints mean that it is not possible to gather all the information needed on the gender gap pay through primary sources. For example, it would be impossible to survey all the companies in the United Kingdom to determine how much they pay their employees on averages, and a waste of time, as this data has already been collected.  Using a substantial amount of secondary data does not affect the efficacy of this report, and is indeed standard academic practice. As McDaniel and Gates (1998) assert, secondary data provides “necessary background data” and adds to the credibility of the research project. Furthermore, the topic of the UK gender pay gap is one that has been explored at length by various commentators. Therefore, the quality of data in existence is very high. For example, the government has commissioned a number of surveys on the subject which were very thorough and examined the UK wage market in depth. Furthermore, a number of renowned academic scholars have explored the subject and provide a range of interesting views on the matter.

The secondary data was collected from books, academics journals and internet sources.  Online databases available through the researchers university library were particularly useful. Searches were carried out using key terms including:

  • Gender pay gap
  • Men and women’s pay
  • Pay differentials
  • Motivation
  • Job satisfaction
  • Pay
  • Remuneration
  • Financial Reward
  • … and similar

These terms were used both alone and in combination. Sources were restricted to those in English.

The secondary data collected is set out above in the literature review. It was used to help understand the wider context of the study, and to look at relevant theoretical models, as well as refine the research questions.   It can be seen as a frame for the by primary data, or information collected first-hand and tailored to a particular study (Gravetter and Forzano, 2011).

As the study is concerned with exploring subjective matters, that is motivation and productivity, the ways in which the gender pay gap is perceived and worker understanding of links between these areas, it was thought important to get the views of a sample of the concerned parties in a bid to find out whether their real life experiences reflect the conclusions reached in the materials studied. The assumption was that unequal pay affects workplace attitudes and results in women feeling disenfranchised and unmotivated.  It has been noted above that while there are a number of studies looking at women’s responses to the gender pay gap, fewer look at men’s responses. In addition, many of the existing studies are primarily quantitative, looking at the broad experiences of a large number of respondents to assess links between gender, pay, and motivation. This study aims to address this by contributing a study looking in more detail at both men’s and women’s views of pay, motivation and performance.

A case study of one particular organisation, Nestle (UK and Ireland) was selected as the most appropriate approach.  There are a number of different definitions of a case study, but there seems to be a general agreement that a case study limits the research to a single entity (which can be a person, a social situation, or an organisation, amongst other possibilities).  Others suggest that case studies look at the context in which the research is carried out, in order to understand the specifics of the relationships between context and the entity studied (Mills et al 2010).  While there were clear advantages of using a case study for this research, as the author had access to the organisation, a number of disadvantages of this approach have been pointed out. Problems include a lack of rigour, the generation of too much data that lacks structure, and particularly that the data might not support the drawing of general conclusions (Hall 2008).

However, while the current study  limits data collection to a single organisation, it is only a case study in the narrower sense of the term, that is, it is not concerned with the details of the context in which the study is carried out. In other words, Nestle are taken here as a typical global organisation with a UK presence.  The extent to which the organisation has a gender pay gap is around the UK average. It is perhaps almost more appropriate to describe the current study as a questionnaire based study carried out in one particular organisation.  Rather, Nestle have been selected because of the ease of access to a suitable number of respondents willing to talk about their experiences.

Initial contact to the organisation was made through the researcher’s personal contacts. The concept for the study was explained in a telephone call; this was followed by an email in which written details were given to explain the purpose and nature of the study in full. The personal contacts passed the details to a senior manager in Human Resources, who agreed that Nestle would take part in the study, and who helped co-ordinate the administration of the questionnaire from publicising it to employees, ensuring they took part, and helping distribute information.  The study was carried out online, using standard survey software available online, in order to ensure anonymity. Respondents were also informed of the confidential nature of the study, of the purpose of the study, and of their right to withdraw at any time before they started answering questions.

A sample size of 20 employees was used, with a quota of 10 men and 10 women set to allow equal comparison of opinions between the genders. The reason for the small sample size was to allow ease of data analysis. 20 was also felt to be a realistic response rate, and this turned out to be the case. In the event, the first round of interviews co-ordinated by the HR Manager returned only 16 respondents, however the HR Manager sent out follow up emails, which generated an additional 4 respondents, making a total of 20.  Although it is generally felt that in order for quantitative data analysis to be valid, sample size should be 30 or more (O’Leary 2005), in this case it was felt that the bulk of the analysis would be qualitative, looking at responses in more detail, and therefore that 20 respondents would provide sufficient data for the study.

The questionnaire consisted of a number of structured and semi-structured questions, as well as demographic questions.  The full set of questions can be found in appendix A.  In order to ensure that the study is as neutral as possible, the questions were framed in such as way as to avoid ‘leading’ respondents to a particular answer. For example, a leading question would be one of the form ‘men and women are paid differently at Nestle. Men get more money. Do you think this is fair’.   A mix of open and closed questions were used in the questionnaire. Closed questions are ones where a set number of answers is possible, and respondents have to select one or more of these possible answers. An open question is one where respondents can answer at greater length, expressing their feelings in depth (Brace 2008).   The rationale for using both types of questions was to obtain focused answers to allow the forming of conclusions on the one hand, but also to gather more detailed information about respondent subjective perceptions in order to give depth to the closed answers and hence enhance the quality of the research.

Data was collected, as mentioned above, by asking respondents to complete an online survey. This had the advantage of anonymity: if respondents had had to answer questions face-to-face, they might have felt that their answers would be less confidential. Despite opportunities to ensure the respondent that conditions of confidentiality apply, face-to-face interviews are acknowledged to be problematic in this respect. Unless a relationship of trust is developed, interviewees are more likely to feel concerned about what is going to happen to the data (Liverman 1998).  However, face-to-face interviews offer more scope to obtain more complex and detailed responses, as trained researchers can prompt and probe the respondent to provide more information (Bowling and Ebrahim 2005).  This extra information would have been useful for the particular study, as it is concerned with the details of personal experience of the gender gap, however, unfortunately, time and cost constraints ruled this method of data collection out.

The results obtained were a mix of quantitative (numeric) data to record pre-defined responses such as gender and age group, and qualitative textual answers.   Basic descriptive statistics were collected for the quantitative questions. The text-based answers were read and ‘coded’ into the most common responses. Coding is a process whereby observations are categorised according to a set number of dimensions, reducing the amount of data, and making it simple, but retaining complexities of the concepts involved (Monette et al 2010).

4.2 Ethics, Problems and  Limitations

Because this research involved human subjects, it was necessary to take ethical considerations into account.  There are a variety of different areas to consider. It is unlikely that participants will come to any physical harm through taking part, or be at a disadvantage through not taking part (as might be the case in a laboratory trial of a new drug, for example). (Bryman and Bell 2007). However, if the results of the study became known by management, and respondents were unflattering about the company or staff, might this endanger their position within the organisation?  For these reasons, the utmost care was taken to ensure that the results of the study were confidential, and that respondents could not be personally identified through their answers. It was anticipated that some employees would be wary about discussing their views on pay and their productivity with a stranger, so extra lengths were taken to assure respondents their views would be collated and analysed anonymously. This was made possible through the use of an online survey website, Survey Monkey which allows users to register and respond to questionnaire anonymously. This precaution was useful, as several respondents commented that they would not like their views on pays to be known by either other colleagues or by management.   Care was also taken to ensure that other areas identified as potentially problematic were managed effectively. For example, it was necessary to  make sure that respondents consent to take part was fully informed, that is, they were completely aware of the point of the study and what the data would be used for. It was also necessary to avoid deception and invasion of respondent privacy (Bryman and Bell 2007).

There were one or two limitations to the research. The main limitation of this report is that it uses a high proportion of secondary information. However, the researcher aimed to ensure that only the highest quality data was included, from reputable academic sources, and that this was used to frame the secondary study. It has been established that “secondary data can be used as a basis for comparisons with primary data that the researcher has first collected” (Kumar, 2008).  Another limitation is that the data was collected from only one company, Nestle. This was because of ease of access, as the researcher had personal contacts in the organisation. It could be the case that Nestle’s staff have attitudes towards the gender pay gap which are not typical of employees of other organisations.  By extending the study to  include other companies, this limitation would have been avoided.  It is suggested that future studies might compare the data from Nestle with data from other multi-national organisations with branches in the UK.  The study is also limited by the small sample size, particularly in regards to the generalisability of the quantitative data, however this might also be rectified by further studies with more respondents. Additionally, 20 respondents is a good number for qualitative studies.  The results of the coding process were reflected upon by the researcher over a period of days, and the original data was returned to and reconsidered in an iterative,  reflective process.


5. Results and Discussion

In total, 20 sets of data were collected. All respondents completed the full survey, including demographic detail, although there was a great deal of variation in the quality of the textual responses.  One or two respondents confined themselves to very brief replies, such as ‘nothing really’ or ‘I can’t think of anything’ to questions 5, 6, and 8.  At the other end of the scale, one or two respondents wrote very full replies for all the open-ended questions, giving a great deal of detail.  If time and money allowed, the researcher would consider re-contacting these people for a face-to-face interview, bearing in mind the possibility for bias this would open up.  Overall, the responses tended to be somewhat shorter and less detailed than would have been ideal. Face-to-face interviews would have made it possible to prompt and probe the respondent for more information, and explain questions if they were not understood (Bowling and Ebrahim 2005), but (as explained above) this option was not feasible for a number of reasons.

In terms of demographics, there was a fairly even spread between the different groups. Men and women were split evenly at 10 men and 10 women. The age breakdown was as follows (table 1):

Group Number
16-24 1
25-34 4
35-44 7
45-54 6
55-64 1
65 and over 1

Table 1: Age breakdown

The bulk of respondents, therefore, were aged 25-54, with 13 (65%) 35-54.  It is possible that different results would have been returned with a different age group. It is certainly the case that perceptions on job satisfaction seem to change for older workers, some suggesting, for example, that older workers are more satisfied with their jobs (Cavanaugh et al 2009), and others that younger staff are more satisfied with pay (Blanpain 2010).  Future studies might look at the impact of age on awareness of and feelings about the gender pay gap.   Respondents had worked for Nestle for varying lengths of time (table 2)

Group Number
Under 6 months 1
6 months to 1 year 2
1-2 years 8
2-4 years 4
5-10 years 3
10-15 years 2
15+ years 0

Table 2: Length of time with Nestle

Fortunately, most of the respondents (17) had worked for the company for at least 1 year. This meant that the responses given could, for the most part, be reasonably expected to be based on a detailed knowledge of Nestle.  However, it also meant that respondents might be less likely to compare their experience to that in other organisations.

Education level and position in company were biased towards respondents with a degree or above (14 of the 20 respondents) and those in management positions (12 out of the 20). For the latter case, this might reflect a greater commitment to the organisation, and feeling that one should set an example by taking part in the study.

Turning now to the data collected in the main part of the study, perhaps  the most notable phenomenon was the lack of awareness, or concern, about the gender pay gap. 14 out of the 20 said they were aware of the term, which intuitively seems slightly low, however of these 14, only 9 were able to give a full response at Q2 which fitted with the assumed definition of the term.  One answer at Q2, “yes, I’ve heard of it, but to be honest I’ve not really thought about it at all – is it something to do with women taking time out for childcare?”. Another said “I’ve heard of it, but that’s about all”.  Of those who gave more committed information, all 9 had an awareness of the gender pay gap which broadly fitted with the definitions discussed above. For example, one respondent wrote “I think it refers to the difference between men and women’s pay – men are paid more per hour for effectively the same job”. Another commented after definition “I find it shocking that these differences exist in this day and age”.   This finding broadly agrees with the literature review above: as Blackaby et al (2005) points out, many people are unaware of the pay gap. We have also seen that women may tend to be less aware of the gap than men, that younger people are less aware, and that the more highly educated are more aware (Khoreva 2011). While statistical testing of these points is not possible given the relatively small sample size, Khoreva’s suggestions do seem to be corroborated by the present study. Of those who are aware, 6 were male, and all had a degree or higher qualification. They were also all over 35.

Those people who were aware of a gender pay gap were asked what they thought about it. The responses here divided broadly into two categories. People were either broadly indifferent to it, or angry about it. No one admitted to supporting  a gap between pay for the genders.  While this might reflect opinions, it is also possible that people did not want to admit to themselves that they held opinions other might call ‘sexist’ or ‘prejudiced’. In hindsight, it might have been appropriate to use other research techniques designed to uncover responses which the respondent holds unconsciously.  Projective research techniques have been more widely used in other countries, for example Asia, where there can be reluctance to express personal views (Craig and Douglas 2005). Such techniques might be usefully adopted for surveys of this type.  Returning to the results, of the two types, 8 of the 14 who were aware of the gender pay gap were broadly indifferent. Responses of the nature “yes, I am aware of it but haven’t thought about it much” and “what can you do about it – it’s ingrained into social structures” were typical. Of the other group, all expressed anger that men should be paid more “for doing exactly the same work!”. Other typical comments were “despite all the stuff in the papers about women doing so well – when you look at the hard, cold facts men still sweep up the benefits” and “women have the bulk of child-care responsibility – and get paid less! How is that fair!”.  Of the 6 respondents who were angry about the situation, 4 were women. 2 men were also angry, but couched it in less emotive terms, for example “I can see why women are so upset. Less pay, for what is arguably at least an equal contribution to the workplace”.

Respondents were also asked to assess the impact that a gap between men and women’s pay had on their own productivity and efficiency. As might be expected, those who were overall aware but indifferent to the gap tended to downplay the impact of the gap. Typical responses for this group were “I don’t know” “nothing really” “I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference, yes I’m aware it goes on, but I don’t think about it very often”.   One respondent, however, seemed to have been prompted by the topic of the study to think more deeply. He commented that although he had not given it much thought, now he had come to think about it he did think it was possible that it might have an impact, in the sense that women might feel annoyed and contribute less to the organisation.   Responses of the ‘angry’ subset of respondents were interesting. Intuitively, it might be thought that the response to awareness of and anger about the gap would be to either work less productively or assume that it would affect organisational-wide productivity. This did not seem to be the case however. One respondent commented “I’m very angry about it, but I wouldn’t let it change the way I approach my job” and another said “No, I work exactly the same. I try to challenge it in other ways” (they did not explain what these other ways were). One or two did feel that it “might” have a bad effect on organisational productivity, although did not feel it directly impacted their own work. One woman manager said “I personally don’t let it affect my work, but I can see that if there’s a big gap in a company between pay levels, maybe in a traditionally male-dominated area like engineering, then that might change the way women work. I think it’s more to do with the overall context”.   In total only 3 respondents commented on the situation in Nestle specifically. There was an overall feeling amongst these that Nestle was perceived as a woman-friendly, equal environment: while they were ready to believe that gender differences in pay did exist, they felt that Nestle as a whole were working to eradicate such differences. This  seems to indicate that the gender pay gap, or the ways in which it is perceived by employees, is heavily dependent upon other variables in the organisation, that is, type of industry, other measures put in place to ensure gender equality, overall benefits packages that are child-friendly, women at upper management / director level and so on. As one woman commented “Overall, yes, there might be a difference, but I feel Nestle are doing more than a lot of other organisations to help women’s equality in the workplace”.  This seems to tie in with the model developed by Khoreva (2011) to understand how the gender pay gap is perceived in organisations. We have seen (above) that the situation is complex, with a number of factors contributing to perceptions, including individual, organisational and social ones.   The responses obtained from this study certainly seem to confirm the idea that people’s assessment of the pay gap as relatively unimportant in terms of their work at Nestle is determined in part by the overall situation at Nestle, and the over-riding perception of the organisation as one which is pro- woman.

All respondents were asked question 7 and 8, regarding benefits. Interestingly, although the perceptions of the gender pay gap and its impact were limited within Nestle, there seems to be a division between men and women in terms of what motivates them.  The results are presented in table 3:

Motivating factor Responses total Men Women
Pay 9 6 3
Other benefits (holidays / bonuses / healthcare) 4 3 1
Job security 8 3 5
Working conditions 4 3 1
Management 5 4 1
Organisational policy 2 2 1
Relationships with other workers 3 0 3
Organisational structure 1 1 0
Sense of achievement in job 11 5 7
Recognition from other employees 4 3 2
Respect from management 2 2 1
Responsibility 3 1 2
Career opportunities 9 5 4
Status 3 3 2

Table 3: Motivating factors

There are two interesting points about these results. According to Herzberg, we can distinguish between hygiene and motivating factors  in work, and while hygiene factors are necessary for a worker to be satisfied and motivated, they are not sufficient (that is, hygiene factors need to be present, but satisfaction and motivation do not automatically follow from their presence alone).  Clark (1997) (and others) also suggested that men are motivated by different factors than women, with hygiene factors like pay more motivating than men. These suggestions are confirmed to some extent by this data. In terms of pay, men mention this as important to their motivation twice as often as women.  They are also more strongly motivated by many, though not all, of Herzberg’s hygiene factors (factors 1,2,3, 4,5,6, 8 in the table) than are women. That is, men are more motivated than women by pay, other benefits, working conditions, management, organisational policy, and organisational structure than are women. However, women rate one of Herzberg’s hygiene factors more highly: job security.  This might reflect the presently uncertain economic times. In terms of motivating factors (factor 7,9,10,11,12,13 and 14), women find relationships with other workers, sense of achievement (though only just) and responsibility more important. Men find status, career opportunities, management respect and recognition from other employees more motivating.  These results should be seen in context however: men on the whole made more mentions than women (totalling 41) than did women (a total of 32). Does this discrepancy between number of mentions perhaps indicate that women are less motivated overall within Nestle than men?

The final question asked respondents whether there was anything else that motivated them. This question received generally short answers, perhaps as a function of respondent fatigue, the phenomenon whereby respondents become tired with the survey, at the end of a long response list or midway through a study (Seale 2004). Although the survey was reasonably short, this last question was notable for the lack of detail given.   Where answers (other than “not really” were given), a sizeable number seemed to use the space to clarify or overview their responses at the previous question, rather than introduce new material. For example, one woman said “as mentioned, I’m mainly motivated by chances for promotion, and the feeling that I’m doing a good job, and also – but not to the same extent – by how well I get on with other colleagues”. Another commented “the problem with the previous question is that its ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – you can’t explain degrees of motivation. I mean, I’m am generally pay oriented, but how well I get on with management also has an impact”.   Overall, the responses to this question, somewhat disappointingly, did not add much to data obtained earlier in the survey.


6. Conclusion

The above study has looked at the nature of the ‘gender wage’ or ‘gender pay’ gap, that is, the difference between the pay of men and women. It has been assumed that this gap is characterised by men being paid more than women.   While the gap between men’s higher and women’s lower pay has been in existence for some time, it seems to have narrowed over the years, as a result of changing legislation and changing social and cultural beliefs. There are still wide variations from industry to industry and between countries, however, and in the UK it is reported that a gap of at least 15% still exists (Fawcett Society 2011).

It was important to try to understand this gap further, by investigating existing literature and through a small primary study, as the implications of the pay gap are widespread, and it is claimed it can lead to lowered productivity for those affected by it.  The current study aimed, in addition to a study of the existing literature, to look at the experiences of workers in the UK subsidiary of Nestle.  A number of related research aims were investigated, looking overall at whether the gender pay gap really exists in this employer, how it effects men and women’s perceptions of their performance and motivation, and what in fact motivates employees.

A literature review examined definitions of the gender wage gap. There are some different definitions in use, for example whether it is calculated on annual or hourly pay, however there is general agreement that it refers to the way in which men are paid more than women for doing the same job.   This gap has been substantiated through a number of studies (for example Groshen 1991, Petersen and Morgan 1995).   There have been a number of reasons proposed for the existence of this difference, some more acceptable than others. It seems likely that the gap is not due to inherent differences in biology between the two sexes, but rather a complex mix of cultural and social factors, including child-care arrangements, prejudices against and expectations of women, ideas about male role as provider and existing practice.

There seems some evidence that the gender pay gap leads to differences in productivity and motivation between the two sexes (Wilson and Hoagarth, 2003, Yeandle, 2006, Walby and Olsen, 2002), although the extent to which individuals are aware of the gap seems limited  (Blackaby et al 2005; Lange 2008). This lack of awareness raises an important question of the extent to which government and the media should do more to promote awareness of the gap (Khoreva 2011).  Perceptions may also differ by other demographic variables including location, age and education level.

Theories of motivation were also considered, as a way of understanding men and women’s motivation, job satisfaction and productivity. Maslow’s idea of a hierarchy of needs, and Herzberg’s notion of ‘hygiene’ and ‘motivating’ factors informed the study design.

The results obtained were interesting. It was found that awareness of the gender pay gap was in fact limited: not all respondents were aware of it (at least, not as thus described), and of those who were aware, only 9 seemed to have detailed thoughts about this gap. This result might in one sense seem disappointing, as it means the data obtained was less full than might be hoped for, however it does confirm the suggestion that not all are aware of a gap between men and women’s pay, and hence suggests (at least for these people) that it does not impact upon motivation and performance.  Of those who were aware, this tended to support the idea that men are more aware of the gap than women, and that those who are aware are educated to a higher level.   Of the people aware, some were generally indifferent, or accepted it as part of how things are, while others were angry with the situation.   However, it was also notable that none of the respondents felt that the gender pay gap affected their productivity, or that of the organisation as a whole (with the exception of one, who was unsure).    This might have been down to an attempt to put themselves across in the best possible light, or a fear that their responses were not confidential.   Respondents seemed to feel that Nestle are a woman friendly organisation to work for, and that the company go out of the way to promote equality in the workplace. This might have influenced the results obtained, but seems to fit with Khoreva’s (2011) idea that awareness and impact of the gender pay gap is a complex matter which is mediated by a number of other variables including organisational context.

The study also illustrated the differences between motivating factors for men and women, although there was quite a large amount of cross-over between the genders. Men did on the whole seem to be more motivated by pay and other ‘hygiene’ factors than did women. One notable result was that women overall mentioned fewer factors altogether than did men. This might indicate that woman are less motivated than men in the workplace, which might point to issues regarding gender pay discrepancy: but this is only speculation.

Overall, there are a number of areas which have been highlighted by the study, which could be investigated further. New studies might examine different UK organisations, to address whether the situation described is specific to Nestle. Organisations operating in more traditionally male-dominated industries might return different results, for example. Organisations in other countries might also return interesting data.   In addition, different research techniques might uncover hidden or unconscious ideas about gender, pay and motivation. It is possible that (despite assurances of confidentiality) the results were marred by people saying what they felt they should say, rather than what they really felt. Men, for example, might find it hard to say that they thought the gender pay gap was justified.  Finally, further research might include greater numbers of respondents, to allow more detailed statistical analysis of the data.  While interviewing more than 20 respondents was beyond the scope of the present study, the limited number of people included meant that only the most basic analyses could be carried out.



6. Appendix A – Questions asked in online questionnaire


  1. Are you aware of the term ‘gender pay gap’?
  2. (if ‘yes’ at 1) What does the term ‘gender pay gap’ mean to you?
  3. Are you aware of any difference between men and women’s pay at Nestle?
  4. Are you aware of any difference between men and women’s pay at other organisations?
  5. (if aware of pay gap at 1,3, or 4) What do you think about the existence of a gap between the pay of men and women?
  6. What impact do you think the existence of a gap between men and women’s pay has on your productivity and efficiency? On productivity and efficiency in Nestle generally?
  7. What would you say are the factors which most motivate you in your job? Please select as many as you like from the following list:

Pay; Other benefits (e.g. holidays, bonuses, healthcare); Job security; working conditions; management; organisational policy; relationships with other workers; organisational structure; sense of achievement in job; recognition from other employees; respect from management; responsibility; career opportunities; status

  1. Is there anything else that motivates you in your work? Please give as much detail as possible (Open ended)




  1. Are you male or female?
  2. How old are you? (into which of the following age bands do you fall)

16-24; 25-34; 35-44; 45-54; 55-64; 65 and over.

  1. How long have you worked for Nestle?

Under 6 months; 6 months to 1 year; 1-2 years; 2-4 years; 5-10 years; 10-15 years; over 15 years

  1. What is your job title?
  2. How much are you paid per annum?
  3. What is your highest qualification?



7. Appendix B Timetable/Project Plan



Stages Task Notes Time
1 Project Proposal Submission 24th Nov 2011
2 Design Questions to ask for the structure-interview and on questionnaire after approval of ethical form 30th Nov – 14th Dec  2011
3 Planning How to conduct the interview 15th – 22nd Dec 2011
4 Literature Review Thorough reading 23rd– 30th Dec 2011
5 Data Collection Questionnaires and Interviews 3rd – 24th Jan 2012
6 Data Analysis Primary and Secondary data 25th Jan – 7th Feb 2012
7 Production of the first draft Presentation of my first draft to my supervisor 8th – 15th Feb 2012
8 Production of final report Additional information and editing 16th – 29th  Feb 2012
9 Submission of my Project Final submission 1st – 5th March 2012


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