Why the Gender Wage Gap Varies

There are many differences between how men and women are treated in their jobs.  Women are consistently treated as if they are less worthy to be in the workforce than men are and the gender wage gap is one of the most observable instances of this phenomena.  Many people argue that the gender wage gap no longer exists, or they argue that it exists for reasons such as women being less qualified, societal norms people are taught concerning professions, or having less education.  Research has explored the many reasons why people believe the gender wage gap exists. For example, women are less qualified, have less education, or require more time off for their families.  However, the research on these reasons have consistently shown that these are no longer logical reasons as to why women are still being paid less than men for the same work.  This is a phenomenon that takes place in all professions; however, it is prominent in some professions more than others. The research here explores: why is the gender wage gap more prevalent in some professions than others, and what specific factors or reasons determine this?
To answer these questions, we first need to explore in which professions do women earn more than men, and in which professions do men earn more than women.  Examining connections in this data could then be used to better understand why women usually make less than men across all types of professions.  An article by Drake Baer and Andy Kiersz helped answer this question with their title: “Here Are The Only 9 Jobs in America Where Women Out-earn Men.”  These men researched and collected data concerning 342 different professions in America. Out of all those professions, there were only nine professions where women earned more than the men doing the same job.  Baer and Kiersz also point out another disheartening fact concerning the data that they collected when they came to the conclusion that: “Furthermore, in the tiny fraction of jobs in which women earn more than men, it’s by a nearly inconsequential amount.  But when men out-earn women, it can be by a significant amount” (Baer and Kiersz).  The data collected by Baer and Kiersz supports that there are only a few jobs where women earn more than men, and when they do, it is only by a small amount.  This supports my thesis that there are in fact some professions where the gender wage gap is bigger than other professions.
Another set of data was collected to explore more professions, and to display information about these professions to make better assumptions as to why some professions have larger gender wage gaps than others.  The raw data was collected from The City of Seattle’s research about professions under their jurisdiction.  Figure 1 and Figure 2 are both bar charts that show the information from this raw data set, from the government of Seattle, that are relevant to this topic.  These charts compare the hourly rates of men and women in their respected professions, along with the average number of months men and women work in these professions.  The two figures vary because they portray this data for various different professions.

Both of these charts have two important conclusions that can be drawn about the topic of exploring why some professions have larger wage gaps than others.  First, it is important that in many of these jobs, the hourly rate between men and women is not that different; however, in a large amount of the jobs where the difference between the hourly rate for men and women is nonexistent or almost nonexistent, there is a large difference in the amount of months worked.  For example, in Figure 2, female heavy truck drivers in Seattle worked over two hundred months, while the men worked approximately one hundred months.  However, they were earning the same hourly rate.  In other words, women heavy truck drivers have to work twice as much as the men doing the same job, in order to make the same hourly rate.  The same problem occurs for radio dispatchers and carpenters in Seattle.  These three jobs are especially important for this argument due to several reasons.  First, the argument that women would be paid less because they have to take more time off for their families is clearly negated by this information considering the women work (at most) double the amount of the men in the same profession, and only then are they being paid the same hourly wages.  Secondly, these three jobs are the examples chosen because they negate the argument that women could be less qualified because of lack of education.  These three jobs do not require a lot of higher-level education in order to be successful.  The data and charts clearly show that even in the jobs that require no education, women are still being paid less than the men doing those jobs.  So the argument that women make less because they have less education cannot be used to support why the gender wage gap exists, because even when the jobs require no education the women are still making less.
     The second main assumption that can be made from these bar charts are the gender stereotypes surrounding choice of professions that seem to be highly supported by this data.  The whole notion of men being doctors while women are supposed to be nurses is sadly a perfect analogy to demonstrate how some jobs are still thought of today to be “boy jobs” and some are “girl jobs.”   Pew Research Center even supports this in their article , they state:  “Surgeons … are traditionally male occupations that remain heavily male” and they also refer to the profession of a family doctor as being a “traditionally male field.”  This stereotype could be one of the key reasons why the gender wage gap is more prevalent in some jobs than others.  Women tend to choose jobs that society has ingrained into our minds as being a job that a woman should be doing, and men tend to choose jobs that they have been taught by society as jobs that are more appropriate for men.  These societal norms are one of the main factors that need to change in order to make the gender wage gap nonexistent in America.  
     An article by Emily Baxter, gives hope that these societal norms where jobs are only appropriate for certain genders is becoming less prevalent with our young adults who aspire for jobs in recent generations.  For example she states: “… women earned 47% of all the law degrees in 2011” and “… male surgeons earn 37.76 percent more than their female counterparts” (Baxter).  Lawyers, politicians, and surgeons are two jobs that probably have the highest stigma of being jobs that should be performed by men.  However, women are almost earning the same amount of law degrees and medical degrees as men.  Women are working to close this gender wage gap by pushing their way into jobs that they have been told they are not skilled enough to be doing; however, as the quote just stated, they are still earning less than the men doing the same jobs as they are.
     Since women are breaking these societal norms and entering jobs that they previously did not enter at the same rates as men, it is important to look into these once male dominated professions and determine why women are still being paid less.  As
stated before, the jobs that require the most education and are the highest paying professional jobs are the ones with the biggest gender wage gaps.  An article by Judy Goldberg Dey and Catherine Hill supports this by saying, “The disparity emerges quickly, with a small gender wage gap among college graduates, then widens over time” (Dey and Hill).  In other words, the more experience and the more hours a woman works, the gender wage gap becomes larger.  This is obviously a problem that needs to be reversed in order to eliminate the gender wage gap.  In an article 
about female lawyers by Bryce Covert, she summarizes and presents data and statistics from a report by Sky Analytics concerning why female lawyers are still making less.  Covert states: “Overall, women in the profession earn about 87 percent of what men make” (Covert).  Some of that gap may come from the fact that women are heavily concentrated at the bottom of the ladder: Sky Analytics found that women make up 75 percent of paralegals and 46 percent of associates but just 22 percent of partners (Covert).  In other words, women are still ending up in the lower paid positions within the profession.  Women are becoming paralegals or associates, but only twenty two percent are partners, which is equivalent to the CEO’s of the law world (Covert).  This could be used as a reason why the gender wage gap still exists, but many of these women are probably not choosing to become associates.  They are just not being given the same chances to become partners as men are.  If a man is choosing between two evenly qualified applicants for a new partner, and he and all the other current partners are men, they are more likely to stay with the norm and familiarity of having most of the partners be men instead of adding a woman, even if she is evenly qualified.  Humans are notorious for remaining with the status quo and the customs that we are taught.
     Another author, whom Bryce Covert often cites, is Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard.  Her paper is about the ways that law firms need to evolve in order to benefit their female lawyers as much as they do their male lawyers.  She writes: “The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might even vanish if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who worked long hours and who worked particular hours” (Goldin, pg. 1).  She strongly believes that law firms need to offer more alternatives for their lawyers to choose how much they work, and when they work.  If firms do this then the gender wage gap would probably quickly disappear.  In other words, she is stating that she believes the main reason for the gender wage gap (in law firms) is because women lawyers are penalized for having to work more unusual hours than men due to the fact that they are usually more responsible for taking care of their families.  If changes were made to make the hours more flexible, then men and women working the same amount of hours would be making comparable salaries.
     Joyce Jacobsen writes in her article, “Gender Wage Gap,” that there are three main reasons for the gender wage gap.  She says that they are: “differences in human capital; differences in working conditions; and discrimination in pay, employment, and promotion” (Jacobsen).  However, differences in human capital usually is not a problem in the United States considering women usually come from the same amount of education as the men in the same job fields as them, but will still get paid less.  Differences in working conditions is another factor that does not affect Americans since we are such a developed country, but women and men in the same conditions still earn different wages.  Since these two reasons are negated, the final reason must be the main reason the gender wage gap exists.
Women are discriminated in pay when they work more hours and/or months than men in the same profession as them, but only get the same or less as those men.  This is also related to how women are discriminated against in promotions.  The statistic that only 22% of lawyers are partners in their firms, while the lower paying law-related jobs are made up of mostly women, also supports the fact that women are discriminated against in promotions.  This is especially a problem considering that women are currently completing higher-level education at a faster and more consistent rate than men.  Lastly, the gender wage gap is apparent through Figure 1 and Figure 2 as well as the gender stereotypes that surround professions. The statistics that elaborated on how the highest paying professions are the ones with the largest gender wage gaps supports the theory
that women are discriminated in employment.  These factors are why the gender wage gap exists more in some professions than others.  Sadly, the women who work the hardest in their education years, and in their professions are usually the women that are affected the most by the gender wage gap.  All of these statistics support the overall conclusion
 that the gender wage gap exists because women are discriminated in pay, employment, and promotions.  

Works Cited

Baer, Drake, and Andy Kiersz. “Here Are The Only 9 Jobs in America Where Women
Out-earn Men.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Sept.
2016.
Baxter, Emily. “How the Gender Wage Gap Differs by Occupation”. American Progress.
Center for American Progress, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
Covert, Bryce.  “Female Lawyers Can Work Longer And Harder But Will Still Be Paid
Less.” ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 06 May 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
“Data Catalog.” City of Seattle Wages: Comparison by Gender. City of Seattle, 4 Feb.
2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.
Dey, Judy Goldberg, and Catherine Hill. 2007. Behind the Pay Gap. Washington, DC:
American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.
Goldin C. A Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter. American Economic Review.
2014;104 (4) :1091-1119.
Jacobsen, J. 2016. Gender Wage Gap. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and
Sexuality Studies. 1–3.
“Women Call the Shots at Home; Public Mixed on Gender Roles in Jobs.” Pew Research
     Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Pew Research Center, 25 Sept. 2008.
Web. 07 Dec. 2016.

 

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2 responses to “Why the Gender Wage Gap Varies

  1. Your article was really good! I just learned about this in sociology, and your research correlates with it really well. The information that you used seemed credible, and you stayed on topic when supporting your thesis. I liked how you incorporated what the society thinks women should be, because it emphasizes why we take the jobs that we do. Overall, good work!

    Like

  2. I really enjoyed reading your blog post on the gender wage gap. Your youtube video was very informative as well as the specific points you made throughout your post. Most people realize this is a necessary issue to address but usually do nothing about it. You used really good quotes to show the credibility of where your facts came from. Really great job!

    Like

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