The Gender Wage Gap

Heidi Hartmann talks about the different ways we measure the gender wage gap today on the Institute for Women’s Policy Research Blog. It’s a bit dense, but really informative. Near the end, she makes a strong case for examining the determinants of the wage gap, rather than questioning whether it exists. In particular, she points out a subtle, but important point regarding what I like to dichotomize as outright versus institutionalized discrimination.

Several comprehensive literature reviews that have been published in peer reviewed scholarly journals conclude that about 25 to 40 percent of the wage gap remains unexplained. But most of these studies do not assess whether some of the differences observed between women and men that might help explain the gender wage gap, like college major, are themselves the result of discrimination or of limited choice sets faced by women and men. In a world where most social workers are women and most engineers are men, few women and men may consider training for occupations that are nontraditional for their gender.

Girls and young women go into fields that pay less. It’s also hard to go into a field dominated by men. It’s not that women can’t perform in these fields, but it’s not particularly easy. I’m in one, and without the help of many amazing mentors (male and female), and female role models, I wouldn’t be here. We owe it to girls to figure out why. Case in point. And here is some good, related reading. And here’s Feministing today on the pay gap in medicine.

h/t Mark Price

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