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Pay satisfaction in Higher Education: A gendered and social constructionist approach

Smith, Maria Jane (2018) Pay satisfaction in Higher Education: A gendered and social constructionist approach. PhD thesis, University of York.

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The gender pay gap is a persistent feature of the labour market however evidence indicates that women are often more satisfied with their pay than men, suggesting a 'paradox of the contented female worker'. There is a range of theories which hypothesise that women's behaviour or characteristics are the 'cause' of this paradox and which simultaneously neglect how the workplace might contribute towards pay satisfaction. This body of work has adopted a positivist, 'top down' and quantitative approach but has failed to provide convincing evidence to support the theories proposed. Arguing that there are weaknesses in the approach previously adopted, the research presented in this thesis adopted an alternative ontological position. Utilising social constructionism to conceptualise gender, work and pay, a mixed method approach was used, comprising of a survey and follow up qualitative interviews with staff at two UK universities. Influenced by feminist research methodology, the research aimed to ensure that pay satisfaction was approached and understood from the point of view of those being researched. As well as examining previous theories, the research also investigated alternative approaches to understanding this paradox. The findings indicated that women were often more satisfied with their pay than men. However, both male and female low paid workers were also often more satisfied than higher paid workers. Support was not found for previous theories of the paradox which had focussed upon female behaviour, but did find that beliefs about the 'value' of different occupations affected expectations of pay and influenced satisfaction levels. In addition, amongst higher paid staff, a high workload and the perception of a lack of autonomy contributed to relatively low pay satisfaction whilst lower paid staff were reassured that their own pay, although low, was reasonable given their lighter workload.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Social Policy and Social Work (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.759919
Depositing User: Ms Maria Jane Smith
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 16:33
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 13:04
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21958

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