Pay Gap Myth: Women earn less because they choose lower paying sectors

Gender pay gapIt’s a long held myth that the gender pay gap is down to women’s ‘poorer’ occupational choices. While there are indeed more women in less well paid sectors, that doesn’t account for the gender pay gap. Is the answer simply in encouraging more women into higher paid jobs? Not quite.

Harvard labor economist Claudia Godin explains in her paper ‘The Grand Gender Convergence’ that the pay gap is actually widest in some of the highest paying fields – and is worst in fields that demand presenteeism to reward workers. For example, in the US, women in finance make 66% of their male counterparts and female doctors earn just 71%. Female lawyers and judges earn 82% – even after controlling for race, age, hours and educational level.

At the same time, men, especially white men tend to make more than women even in female-dominated jobs and advance more quickly into management roles within these sectors. We at Female breadwinners like Godin’s suggestions. Increase flexibility so that hours can be worked anywhere; not just those who can be in front of their boss 12 hours a day and increase incentives for paternity leave; so that men and women are likely to have worked equal number of hours when their children are born and it isn’t mothers alone who pay the ‘parenting penalty’ after childbirth.

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