Published: January 2015
Author(s): Rhys Davies, Robert McNabb, Keith Whitfield

A journal article in Cambridge Journal of Economics. Volume 39, Issue 2.

The impact of performance-oriented work practices on the gender pay gap has been the subject of considerable conjecture but little empirical investigation. Using the 2004 and 2011 British Workplace Employment Relations Surveys, the analysis finds that whilst average earnings are significantly higher for men and women across private sector workplaces that have introduced so-called high-performance work practices, the presence of such practices is not associated with a narrowing of the gender pay gap and, if anything, tends to exacerbate the differential in earnings between men and women. Data from the 2004 survey suggest that women are more likely to work in high-performance workplaces, but this is not the case for 2011. There is no evidence that gender segregation is significantly less in high-performance workplaces than in workplaces taking a more traditional route. Policy makers and employing organisations therefore need to be careful in reconciling their performance and equality strategies. In particular, they need to examine whether the former are truly gender-neutral. This requires additional measures, possibly the introduction of human resource audits in the public and private sectors.