The gender wage gap

Women are still generally paid less than men in the UK and US

Feminism is closely held to the hearts of many Paulinas, and debate has increasingly centred around the topic of equal pay and equal opportunity in the workplace. Sex-based integration happened mostly in the 1970s and 1980s mostly in white-collar jobs, and the effects have been fruitful; Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago has even credited the 25% increase in the growth output per worker in America (from 1960-2010) due to improved talent allocation in terms of gender.

Though it is true that every year a few women or men become the first of their sex to hold a particular job, it is true that integration has largely stalled. Most men still work with men and most women with women. In America, some of the most common occupations for women (like teaching, nursing and secretarial work) are at least 80% female; indeed, over half of the USA’s workforce would be required to switch profession in order to negate the labour imbalance between the sexes. This occupational segregation has resounding effects on earnings, and as you can see from the above diagram, female-dominated jobs tend to pay less well. Of the 30 highest paying occupations in America, only 4 are female dominated, and of the 30 lowest-paid ones, 26 are largely female; this in itself speaks volumes.

Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, published a paper in which she described her theory of ‘pollution’, which states that many female-dominated occupations are paid less well precisely because women do them since the work of females is consistently undervalued. She argues that if more men were in traditionally ‘feminine’ jobs, then women, on the whole, would earn significantly greater sums of money.

Perhaps there is no reason to expect a perfect 50-50 split in every job, but what matters is an end to the long-standing tradition of undermining work by women compared with that of men. 

Priya V