Religion is a driving force behind the gender wage gap, study finds

New research published in the Academy of Management Journal indicates that religion perpetuates the gender wage gap. The findings provide evidence that men tend to earn significantly more than women in societies with heightened religiosity.

“Management researchers have called religion ‘a benign and positive force in business.’ Because of that, we are seeing these policies that let religion in, but when you look at the management literature with a fine-tooth comb, there has been no scrutiny of religion and gender attitudes,” said Traci Sitzmann, an associate professor of management at the University of Colorado Denver and the corresponding author of the new study.

“I think it’s a little ironic that we haven’t questioned if there could be some negative implications for letting religion into the workplace.”

For their research, Sitzmann and her colleague, Elizabeth M. Campbell, examined data from the Human Development Report, Gallup Incorporated, and other sources. This allowed them to analyze not only the relationship between the gender wage gap and religiosity in 140 countries, but also test for potential mechanisms behind the relationship.

The researchers also specifically examined the situation in the United States using data from Gallup and the Status of Women in the States report. They found that the gender wage gap tended to be greater in more religious countries and in more religious states within the United States. The collective mentality toward sexuality, the ability of women to attain power, and the differentiation of social roles for men and women helped to explain the relationship.

“In nations where more than 95% or more people said religion was important in their daily lives, such as Pakistan and the Philippines, women earned around 46% as much as men. In countries where fewer than 20% of people said religion was important to them in daily life, such as Sweden and Estonia, women averaged around 75% of men’s wages,” Sitzmann told PsyPost.

“The effect held true for all major world religions. It didn’t matter if most believers in a country were Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or adherents to a folk religion. The wage gap was still greater in countries where religion played a major role in daily life.”

“The gender gap is projected to vanish in 28 years in the most secular states, compared with a stunning 109 years in the most religious states in the United States,” Sitzmann added.

The research, however, was limited by the fact that it only examined correlational data. So Sitzmann and her colleague conducted two experiments see whether link between religiosity and the gender wage gap was a causal relationship.

The studies, which included 234 individuals, provided evidence that religion is a driving force behind the wage gap. Participants were more likely to endorse gender wage gaps after being exposed to corporate language that glorified belief in god and adherence to faith-based principles.

“Our research is instrumental for documenting that religiosity has a systematic effect on women’s wages, suggesting that businesses should toe a fine line between permitting religious freedom and ensuring that freedom does not infringe upon the rights of others,” Sitzmann said.

The study, “The Hidden Cost of Prayer: Religiosity and the Gender Wage Gap“, was published October 27, 2020.

Leave a Comment