The gender wage gap is a phenomenon that is impossible to reconcile. Why should women and men ever be paid disproportionately for doing the same jobs?
While the gap is shrinking, the numbers are still rather shocking. A study by Glassdoor of over 400,000 positions found that men make an average of 21% more than women overall. Women are still earning just 79 cents for every dollar that a man makes in the same position. At the current rate that the gap is narrowing, it will take about 50 years for the gap to erode completely. But we shouldn’t be waiting one more day to try to fight against this unfairness.
To learn what to do, it’s useful to look at places where the gender pay gap is largest and where it is narrowest in order to understand the conditions that surround the phenomenon and hopefully come up with strategies to use to combat the issue.
The industries with the largest gender pay gap
One would be correct to assume that male-dominated professions also feature large gaps in wages for men and women.
- Up in the air: Today, the field where women are subjected to the largest pay gap is in aviation. Male pilots make an average of 26.6% more than female counterparts. Part of this disparity is the fact that the industry is very male-dominated. In fact, despite the mystique of the aviatrix Amelia Earhart, it was many years after her death before the first female commercial pilot, Emily Howell Warner, was hired, in 1973. Even today, the industry is only 7% women. According to Women in Aviation International, that adds up to about 50,000 female pilots among the over 600,000 male ones. However, with growth in the female student aviation population in recent years, it is very possible that the culture will turn around – Today, women make up closer to 13% of aviation students and that number will grow, creating more women role models in the air.
- Taking the heat: The industry that boasts the next largest pay gap is the male dominated world of professional chefs. In the world of a restaurant kitchen, women only represent 23% of chefs and are often relegated to pastry chef or sous chef with little chance for advancement. And according to to data usa, in a business where the average salary is less than 45k per year, women typically make $9000 less than their male counterparts. When it comes to leadership, very few professional kitchens are led by women. According to a study by Bloomberg, men represent 93% of executive chefs. Indeed, when the Bloomberg study was published, famous restaurateurs like Tom Colicchio, Danile Boulud and David Chang, did not employ a single female executive chef in any of their many restaurants. However, over the last few years, some female executive chefs have begun to gain prominence including Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, executive chef/owner of Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner, and Duck Duck Goat in Chicago, Illinois. Izard often takes time to talk about the lack of women in the kitchen and provide advice for up and coming female chefs.
- The corner office: With all the strides that have been made in many professions to reach pay equality, there remains a terrible lack of parity in c-suite executive culture in general. Female executives are still hammering at the glass ceiling and making 24% less than men in the same roles. Worse though may be the phenomenon of the glass cliff, where women executives are set up to fail when given the helm of failing companies. Part of the reason that this occurs is due to the wage gap. Women look at opportunities at failing companies as a possible avenues for advancement while a comparable male candidate usually will not take on the same risk. That said, women replacing men in C-suite positions have grown over the last couple of years, up 4%, from 18% in 2017 to 22% in 2018.
Positions with the least gender pay gap
It’s likely equally not very surprising to find that female-dominated professions tend to have improved equity in pay, but that most of these positions are not high paying and tend to have to do with working for direct supervisors in positions dominated by men.
- Keeping shelves popping: While it’s unclear why a woman who perform the job of a merchandiser earns more than a man, it has been the case for over a decade. Merchandisers keep shelves stocked and products priced. This is a generally low paying position (at around $26k per year) but women tend to make about 7% more than men in this job. That said, in food retailers, for example, less than 30% of those in senior leadership are women.
- Study up: While female research assistants make about 6% more than men, it is again a lower paid and lower ranking position. Academia is a notoriously male-dominated business, however, the number of women authors of research papers is steadily growing. According to an article in The Economist, the number of women authors of research publications in many countries grew from 30% in the late 90s to 40% today.
- Reaching out: Social work is a female dominated profession. Women represent about 82% of social workers, and this may account for the fact that women make about 3% more than men in the field. Again, this is generally a lower paying position and social sciences in general tend to have more women, but are not compensated as well as more traditionally male-dominated career tracks.
How to combat the gender wage gap today
There are two major ways that women can help themselves in the workplace and promote gender pay equality.
Growth through finding mentors: When more women enter a field and blaze a trail they act as role models for those women who are up and coming. The more women that can be mentors, the more it is possible to break into a particular profession. Searching for a mentor through associations and networking opportunities is a great plan.
Equality through improved negotiation tactics: Women are less likely to use aggressive negotiation tactics in interview and therefore tend to settle for lower salaries. Investing in learning negotiation strategies has been shown to level the playing field significantly. Some other potential strategies simply require a change in thought process. For example, it’s been demonstrated that women negotiate more effectively on behalf of others rather than advocating for themselves. By thinking of negotiations as affecting, for example, other women in the field, colleagues, or family members, a woman can learn to negotiate for themselves more effectively.
Chipping away at the gender wage gap for the next 50 years is not an acceptable timeline. Equity can be achieved more swiftly if women use the influence they currently have to help others make strides in what has traditionally been male-dominated fields and with investment in new negotiation tactics.