Study: When women enter an industry, pay drops

'It's just that employers are deciding to pay [women] less'

Women generally aren't paid as much as men even when they're in the same profession and doing the same job, Claire Cain Miller writes for the New York Times' "The Upshot."

"No longer can the gap be dismissed with pat observations that women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work," Cain Miller writes.

On average, compared with their male peers, women are better educated, have almost as much work experience, and are just as likely to go after high-paying jobs.

Yet even when women and men work in the same profession, men are paid more. Female lawyers earn 82 percent of what male lawyers earn, and female physicians earn 71 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to research by Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin.

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When women do a job, "It just doesn't look like it's as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill," says Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University, who co-authored a study that analyzed census data between 1950 and 2000. The researchers found that as women entered certain jobs in large numbers, the jobs started paying less—even when all other factors remained the same.

For example, working in parks used to be a predominately male profession. But as women became the primary employees, wages dropped 43 percentage points.

"It's not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance," England says. "It's just that the employers are deciding to pay it less."

And when men starting entering a female-dominated profession, the reverse sometimes is true: salaries can go up. "Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women," Cain Miller says. "But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige," she adds, citing a study in the American Historical Review (Cain Miller, "The Upshot," New York Times, 3/18).

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