One of the excuses used by many to ignore the problem of the wage gap between male and female workers was that the fields “preferred” by women simply paid less. If men chose to be doctors and women chose to be nurses, it was natural that men would be paid more. This was and is utter nonsense, of course. That viewpoint ignores the sexist double standards and barriers to entry that kept women out of these traditionally male occupations. It also obscures the simple reality that when men and women do the same work, in the same field, women still get paid less. New research is helping to accurately portray the ways in which women are discriminated against in employment.
The study, conducted at Cornell University, demonstrates that when women take on jobs that traditionally went to men, the pay for those jobs decreases. The work that was valued when men did it is suddenly devalued simply because women have entered the field. The research took into account the experience, education, skills, race and geography of the workers. All these things being equal, pay went down when women entered the field.
This is about more than supply and demand. The research showed that when a field went from female-dominated to male-dominated, both pay and prestige rose. As it stands, the wage gap between jobs dominated by men and jobs dominated by women is 21 percent. Nowhere is the gap larger than in high-level white collar jobs.
According to the economists who authored the study, 9 percent of the pay gap is based purely on discrimination. That figure does not account for more subtle forms of gender discrimination, such as the pressure placed on women to discourage them from pursuing certain careers. It is time to stop making excuses and address the discrimination faced by women in the workplace. The wage gap should already be a thing of the past.
Source: The New York Times, “As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops,” by Claire Cain Miller, 18 March 2016