But, as we all know, the gender pay gap is a complicated statistic. Solving it isn’t just about giving each employee a 20 percent raise, nor it is just about making sure all occupations have gender parity. There are several factors that influence the gender pay gap, some of which we’re just learning about now.
Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University, has studied gender economics for years. Her work specifically focuses on the gender pay gap.
“Some of the best studies that we have of the gender pay gap, following individuals longitudinally, show that when they show up right out of college, or out of law school or after they get their M.B.A. — all the studies that we have indicate that wages are pretty similar then,” Goldin said on Freakonomics Radio. “But further down the pike in their lives, by 10 to 15 years out, we see very large differences in their pay.”
The reason as to why these differences exist vary based on the individual, the industry they enter and the life choices they make along the way. But societal trends come into play as well. Some of the most prominent include:
- Men’s wages have stopped increasing. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, men’s median hourly wages have decreased since 1979. The EPI has stresses that this is not because women’s wages have risen.
- Women of different races and ethnicities are paid differently. Within the gender pay gap, there’s a race pay gap. The American Association of University Women reports that non-Hispanic white and Asian women bring home higher median annual earnings compared with women of different racial/ethnic groups, including black, Hispanic and Native American women.
- Traditionally male industries still pay women less.
This third point is incredibly important, as these traditionally male industries are traditionally higher-paid. Three of these industries? Personal finance, law and medicine — women in these industries make less than 65 percent of what their male counterparts do.
Men who work in female-dominated fields also experience a gender pay gap. This gap, however, is significantly less; at most, women make 111 percent more in female-dominated industries compared to the 142 percent more men make compared to women in male-dominated industries.
So where are these magical places where women earn more? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the positions you’ll want to keep an eye on:
- Sewing machine operators. This is the industry with the largest difference in female salary compared to their male coworkers.
- Counselors. Members of this profession can work in multiple different environments, making it ideal for professionals interested in flexible schedules.
- Food preparation and serving workers. Here, women make 105.5 percent of men's salaries. This category focuses on the restaurant industry and does include fast-food workers.
- Teacher assistants. This does not include teachers; this position works under an instructor’s supervision to give students additional attention.
You'll notice that the above occupations have a sigificantly lower pay than the male-dominated industries we highlighted earlier. We have no doubt that women will reach 100 percent parity across all industries one day, but for now — it's transportation, storage and distribution managers that come the closest to 100 percent equality by making 99.8 percent of what their male colleagues do. They’re just .02 percent away!
“It makes me feel that I have to get back in my office and do better work,” Goldin said. “One simply has to recognize that there are good people out there who want to make the world a better place and they will push what they want.”