Perceived and Actual Discrimination in the Salaries of Male and Female Managers1


  • 1

    Portions of this paper were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Chicago, 1986. The authors would like to thank David P. Marks for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Dr. Irene Hanson Frieze, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260.


This study uses a sample of over 1000 MBA graduates from a Middle Atlantic University to test for sex differences in perceived discrimination and for the actual effects of various physical characteristics and background factors on the starting salaries and later (1983) salaries of these men and women managers. Women more often reported experiencing discrimination, and they typically identified this as general discrimination against women. Fewer men perceived any discrimination. Those men who did claimed to be the victims of affirmative action programs favoring women and blacks over them. Salary data indicated that women did earn less than men, even when controlling for work experience. Evidence for other forms of discrimination was also found. Controlling for prior work experience and year of first professional employment, age and height had a positive effect on men's starting salaries and being overweight, a negative effect. For women, starting salaries were significantly and positively affected by social class. For 1983 income, taller, non-overweight, and older men earned more, as did those who grew up in a higher social class. For women, a positive salary correlate was again being from a higher social class. Areas for future research are discussed.