Job Differences Explain Most, but Not All, of the Gender Pay Gap

Job Differences Explain Most, but Not All, of the Gender Pay Gap

A new report from Glassdoor, based on over 505,000 salaries shared on the site by full-time employees in the US (plus thousands more from the UK, Australia, France, and Germany), takes a close look at the gender pay gap in these five countries in an effort to determine how much of the gap can be explained by differences between workers. To begin with, Glassdoor found that the pay gap does exist, with men earning more than women in each country, “both before and after adding statistical controls for personal characteristics, job title, company, industry and other factors, designed to make an apples-to-apples comparison between workers.”

On average in the US, men earn 24.1 percent more than women, without adjusting for other factors. Correcting for age, education, and years of experience, the gap shrank to 19.2 percent. Comparing workers with the same job title, employer, and education, the gap was still real but is much smaller at only 5.4 percent. A similar pattern emerged in the other four countries included in the study. With those nuances in mind, the report separated the pay gap into what could be attributed to those differences, and an “unexplained” part driven either by unobserved differences or by mere gender discrimination. In the US, Glassdoor found, only 33 percent of the pay gap is unexplained.

Apologists for the gender pay gap will surely hold up these figures as proof that the impact of gender discrimination on women’s salaries is largely exaggerated, but the congregation of women in lower-paying jobs is not a neutral factor; gender discrimination can manifest not only as women being paid less for the same job, but also as women being shunted into lower-paying jobs or—as we learned earlier this week—as pay declining in a particular profession as more women enter it. The Huffington Post’s Emily Peck stresses this point as well:

Before we go any further with this story, a word of caution: It would be a huge mistake to call this occupational sorting the result of “choice.” To say women are opting for less money is to ignore the heavy social pressures — both explicit and subtle — put on girls and boys to enter (or stay away from) certain subjects in school, majors in college and jobs as adults. …

Even if a woman does make her way to a high-paying or decent-paying industry, she still might wind up on the lower-paying track. In my own field — journalism — you see a preponderance of men covering business and finance, while women are generally overrepresented on the lifestyle beats. Guess which subject gets better pay, generally speaking? In law, more women sort out of high-paying partnerships at major law firms and opt for lower-paying jobs as in-house attorneys. These are just two of many examples.

Glassdoor also broke down pay gaps by field, uncovering considerable variety among different professions. The widest gap was found in computer programming, where women make on average 72 cents for every dollar a man makes (programmers are also a predominantly male cohort). There are some professions in which women make more money than men, though the gaps are much smaller and these professions tend to be less lucrative. Female social workers, for example, tend to make about 8 percent more than their male peers—but then, social work has traditionally been considered as “feminine” profession, and of course, social workers tend to make considerably less money than computer programmers.