How Cultural Beliefs Impact the Gender Pay Gap for Executives Worldwide

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that gender wage differentials around the world are directly attributable to a population’s cultural beliefs and attitudes toward women.

Researchers focused exclusively on women employed in executive-level positions, creating a cross-country sample of women with similar levels of seniority, tenure, and job responsibilities. For each country represented in the sample, the researchers pulled corresponding data from the World Values Survey. Conducted every five years by a global network of social scientists, the survey quantifies the social, political, economic, religious, and cultural values held by populations around the world.

Researchers found that compensation is greater, and the gender pay gap is smaller, in societies that believe women are entitled to an equal education, encourage women’s contributions to the workforce, and value hard work and individual autonomy. They found the opposite holds true for countries with more dogmatic dominant religions and a greater tolerance for institutional corruption and bribery. These countries are also more likely to reflect attitudes of male superiority, as evidenced by adherence to more traditional gender roles and an increased acceptance of violence toward women.

Kristina Minnick, the Stanton Professor of Finance at Bently University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and co-author of the study, stated that “cultural beliefs and values were embedded in societies long before compensation decisions. A firm’s corporate governance systems inevitably reflect the dominant cultural values, as board members’ decisions are based in part on their personal values.”

Dr. Minnock is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic College in Florida. She earned an MBA at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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