Despite significant anti-discrimination laws in most countries, gender pay gap still remains a substantial concern. The notion of comparable worth has been promoted for several years by the ILO and a few countries to fight against relatively lower female salaries. The purpose of this paper is to review the rationales for comparable worth and explain how gender biases, generally involved in traditional job evaluation, can be prevented.
To do this, after reviewing the motives, logics and three major applications of comparable worth logics in pay equity policies, the authors expose an analysis of a French sectorial job classification that the authors carried out as experts for establishing a French Equality Ombudsman’s guide.
The findings show how the redundancy and definition of job evaluation criteria, along with the weighting system, contributes to undervaluation of clerks jobs, predominantly held by women. The authors also highlight the main recommendations of the guide to prevent gender bias in job evaluation, that are derived from this case study, among others. The authors conclude on the difficulties of implementing comparable worth in France, in a period of long lasting economic crisis and of weak union power.
The paper is based on a single case study, conducted for policy actors. It was not conducted at first for academic research purposes, and may thus have some methodological limitations. The implications of the research are, however, important at academic level – highlighting the persistence of gender bias – and at policy level, as it provides recommendations for negotiators.
The guide originally aimed at giving guidelines and “good practices” in order to prevent gender discrimination in job evaluation.
The paper draws attention to the importance and difficulty of undergoing such classification changes in times of economic crisis. Stronger legal action seems necessary.
This experience is the first of its kind – promoted by the Ombudsman – in France. It has never been related in an academic journal as far as the authors know.
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