Opinion

Felix Salmon

Counterparties: The depressingly persistent gender wage gap

March 8, 2013

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It’s International Women’s Day, which makes today a good day to examine why America just can’t seem to pay women as much as men.

To be sure, the gender pay gap has been shrinking for decades. But, by one measure, it got worse last year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports. In aggregate, women working full-time earned 80.9% of what men earned in 2012; in 2011, that ratio stood at 82.2%.

There are some disagreements about these figures. The White House has said that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn; on the other hand, writes Suzy Khimm, if you totally disregard life choices, like having kids, that number hits 91 cents.

But the plain truth is that women often get paid less for doing the exact same jobs as men. Planet Money recently compiled a list of the jobs with the biggest gender pay gaps. They found that female insurance salespeople, financial advisors, physicians and surgeons get paid roughly 60-70% of what their male counterparts do. On the other end of the spectrum, female counselors are paid 2.6% more than men.

Though the gender pay gap tends to narrow when you compare similar jobs, as the St Louis Fed notes, there’s a still a depressingly 1950s breakdown of what professions men and women enter:

Men are more likely to be lawyers, doctors and business executives, while women are more likely to be teachers, nurses and office clerks. This gender occupational segregation might be a primary factor behind the wage gap.

Lisa Pollack has a nice two-part guide to some of the other thorny studies on gender and pay. She highlights one study which finds that women get paid less because they don’t ask for raises, though the study looked only at administrative assistant jobs. Another study found that women get more raises than men, but it only examined small companies.

One thing we do know is that gender inequality in pay is pervasive. It cuts across race, and it applies to both hourly and full-time workers, Dylan Matthews notes. It also starts as soon as women graduate from college. Since 1979, the BLS says, women have gone from earning roughly 60% of what men earn, to somewhere near 80%. Still, “men’s economic privilege has been dented rather than eroded,” Mathews writes. — Ryan McCarthy

On to today’s links:

Primary Sources
A hugely positive jobs report: the US added 236k jobs in February – BLS

Felix
Why analysts generally make terrible investors – Felix

Tax Arcana
The largest U.S. companies are dramatically increasing their untaxed offshore cash piles – Bloomberg

TBTF
Big banks banks pass the possibly not-very-stressful test tests - Dealbook
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley pass stress tests with a convincing “barely” – FT

Remuneration
Ex-Barclays CEO set to be paid $3 million, a year after bank’s LIBOR scandal – Reuters

Charts
The scariest job chart ever gets is now less scary — but still depressing - Calculated Risk

Ugh
Why Canada’s economy is in trouble – Sober Look

Alpha
Hedge funds may be all grown-up, but we’ll always have those crazy SWFs – Alternative CIO

WTF
“Necropsy of Burned Dogs Yields Surprises” – NYT

Says Science
The surgical masks, they do nothing! (probably) – Fortune

Servicey
The best time to have coffee is around 2 pm – Quartz

Wonks
The employment-to-population ratio hasn’t budged in 3.5 years – Brad DeLong

Defenestrations
Pandora’s CEO steps down – NYT

Awesome
Nicolas Cage roulette – nicolascageroulette
Every fucking website – everyfuckingwebsite

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And, of course, there are many more links at Counterparties.

Comments
21 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

LOL What the rabid feminists and emasculated males want is for women to earn exactly the same doing less of the job men do. The pay gap has already been debunked numerous times. Simply saying that one exists with no proof is not going to fly anymore. Sorry to burst your liberal bubble.

Posted by BioStudies | Report as abusive
 

I earn half what my wife does, because I put my career aside when our first child was born. (Prior to that point our earnings were similar.) That child is now ten, and I am still shouldering the afternoon duties that prevent me from taking a full-time day job that would maximize my earnings.

You cannot put your career to the side for a decade and hope to keep up. I’m not complaining, as we made that choice with open eyes, simply stating a truth.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive
 

What’s amazing to me is, in the military the women get paid the same…but sure don’t do the same level/amount of work.

Every time there was some serious heavy lifting (or something similar to do), where were the girls…? Not as one half of the help to get that particular job done.

Want equal pay? Join the military gals.

Posted by Twinkbait | Report as abusive
 

IIRC, in the late 1970s some women took to wearing buttons that said “55/100.” They were saying that women only make 55 cents for every dollar a man makes.

It’s now, by the lowest estimates, in the 70s? Then the gap is shrinking. Is that hapening steadily or by fits and starts that might correspond to policies, enactments, etc.?

Is there a chart available that shows how the number has risen since the days of those buttons?

Posted by Christofurio | Report as abusive
 

To state that someone in the same broad job category (financial advisor, for example) is doing the exact same job is quite a leap of logic.

Two of the cited categories – insurance salespeople and financial advisors – have readily available metrics for how much revenue a person generates. I suspect that most if not all of the gap is due to this difference. If not, there’s a tremendous market inefficiency that someone should arbitrage by poaching away these underpaid women.

Posted by realist50 | Report as abusive
 

To state that someone in the same broad job category (financial advisor, for example) is doing the exact same job is quite a leap of logic.

Two of the cited categories – insurance salespeople and financial advisors – have readily available metrics for how much revenue a person generates. I suspect that most if not all of the gap is due to this difference. If not, there’s a tremendous market inefficiency that someone should arbitrage by poaching away these underpaid women.

Posted by realist50 | Report as abusive
 

To state that someone in the same broad job category (financial advisor, for example) is doing the exact same job is quite a leap of logic.

Two of the cited categories – insurance salespeople and financial advisors – have readily available metrics for how much revenue a person generates. I suspect that most if not all of the gap is due to this difference. If not, there’s a tremendous market inefficiency that someone should arbitrage by poaching away these underpaid women.

Posted by realist50 | Report as abusive
 

To state that someone in the same broad job category (financial advisor, for example) is doing the exact same job is quite a leap of logic.

Two of the cited categories – insurance salespeople and financial advisors – have readily available metrics for how much revenue a person generates. I suspect that most if not all of the gap is due to this difference. If not, there’s a tremendous market inefficiency that someone should arbitrage by poaching away these underpaid women.

Posted by realist50 | Report as abusive
 

To state that someone in the same broad job category (financial advisor, for example) is doing the exact same job is quite a leap of logic.

Two of the cited categories – insurance salespeople and financial advisors – have readily available metrics for how much revenue a person generates. I suspect that most if not all of the gap is due to this difference. If not, there’s a tremendous market inefficiency that someone should arbitrage by poaching away these underpaid women.

Posted by realist50 | Report as abusive
 

My apologies for the multiple posts. I’m not sure what happened, but it was not intentional.

Posted by realist50 | Report as abusive
 

Men do more dangerous work. Thats part of it I suppose. Also women seem to be less innovative and would reap less profit as a result. Innovations by men: internet, facebook, twitter etc…

Posted by Dannyb2b | Report as abusive
 

The other commenters have handled much of this well… but there’s another factor: older employers may have had their salary level set back when unjust discrimination was real. Many professions and employers pay people based not only on their work, but on their salary history. As these folks retire, the discrepancy should be less.

But as long as women make different lifestyle choices than men (and society needs mothers to survive), some women will be objectively less valuable to employers than those who don’t make those choices, and should be paid less.

Another factor is choice of fields of study. Few women are interested in the higher paying STEM subjects, with the exception of medicine. This is also a lifestyle choice, but it is a natural one (all the pushing in the world doesn’t make people interested in subjects they are not naturally interested in, and women *on average* focus more on the people oriented and less technical fields. If you get a degree in English, don’t expect your compensation to match engineers’.

Posted by CurmudgeonAZ | Report as abusive
 

“…. physicians and surgeons get paid roughly 60-70% of what their male counterparts do. ”

So, women physicians do an office call or procedure and send in the same procedure code as a male physician and get 60-70% of what a male counterpart gets?

Please, send me the name of the insurance company that pays the provider by gender and not by procedure code. I smell a lawsuit.

This article is pure malarkey.

Posted by hillery | Report as abusive
 

Realist is dead on when it comes to: female insurance salespeople, financial advisors, physicians and surgeons get paid roughly 60-70% of what their male counterparts do.

The VAST majority of financial advisers and insurance sales people are paid a straight cut of the revs they generate. There is no more fair or equitable compensation scheme in the world.

It would be harder to explain the difference in heart surgeons. Here any gender gap is a really tough thing to justify. The thing about heart surgeon pay thought is it’s very very high.. generally 250k+ and often double that. All heart surgeons make mucho dinero 5x the median wage in the U.S.

How do people who make big big money get a raise. They demand one. They threaten to quit. They do quit. They get what they ask for or chase the money. If men are more willing to ditch their co-workers and neighbors to relocate for 10% more then it becomes pretty challenging for corporations to force parity on their employees. There are some things you could do it with… teachers for example. Ideally they would be paid based on results like test scores. In reality they are paid with 100% gender equity based simply on tenure.

The best way to pay mail men or women would be on the # of letters they deliver in a day… short of that the next best way would probably be to pay them exactly the same amount for the same job. Ditto federal judges, air traffic controllers.. federal whatevers basically. In the private sector it’s a lot messier.

Posted by y2kurtus | Report as abusive
 

What a crock. Women work less hours, stick with the same job less years, get liberal arts instead of technical degrees, tend to avoid disgusting, stressful, dangerous jobs, etc. Norm for those factors and women are paid more than men. And I didn’t even mention pregnancy and higher rates of lawsuits. My sisters with technical degrees are not having trouble getting good jobs, it’s underqualified liberal whiners who are apparently having trouble. Did I mention that studies have proven women are far less accepting of working under women than men are? Assuming, of course, sufficient qualifications. Women are their own glass ceiling.

I’m just tired of this getting trotted out by liberals every two seconds.

Posted by TJPride | Report as abusive
 

As an OWHM I agree that women should earn equal pay to men assuming both are equally qualified. However men and women have not been doing well economically with this president.

Posted by Globalman | Report as abusive
 

doctors, sales people. These are commisssion jobs or self employment jobs. If people who don’t make as much have total control over their income. The pay inequity is often based on like jobs such as a woman nurse is the same as a man rocket scientist. or a cleaning lady is the same as a male plumber or an office clerk the same as a high voltage electrician. They base the equiv. on nebulous factors from the education community. Think of it. If women were paid 77 cents for every dollar men are then all one has to do is strt a business and hire only woman. They’d clean up, so to speak. Does that happen? See! This story is based on Baby poop.

Posted by jabusse | Report as abusive
 

doctors, sales people. These are commisssion jobs or self employment jobs. If people who don’t make as much have total control over their income. The pay inequity is often based on like jobs such as a woman nurse is the same as a man rocket scientist. or a cleaning lady is the same as a male plumber or an office clerk the same as a high voltage electrician. They base the equiv. on nebulous factors from the education community. Think of it. If women were paid 77 cents for every dollar men are then all one has to do is strt a business and hire only woman. They’d clean up, so to speak. Does that happen? See! This story is based on Baby poop.

Posted by jabusse | Report as abusive
 

This is such rubbish.
Study after study has proved that men and women doing the same job, with the same qualifications, with the same level of experience and seniority, earn the same salaries.
…although, in a statistically observable number of instances, the women earn more.
This is when you compare apples to apples.
THERE IS NO WAGE GAP.
It’s only when you group in the waitresses, who’ve been on the job for a few months in college… with the auto workers who’ve put in decades in the same shop, the women attorneys returning to practice in their 40s after raising their kids… with the senior partners, the nurses who got nursing degrees… with the MDs with full medical degrees and years in practice… in short ALL working women with ALL working men, that you get any difference in what they earn.
Everyone makes tradeoffs in life. Far more women than men choose shorter, later, less demanding, less lucrative career tracks, frequently so they can raise families.
It’s ludicrous to conjure up some great social conclusion over those realities.
This entire “gender wage gap” line of thinking is classical collectivist groupthink.
In the real world, “A” woman can make just as much as, or more than “A” man, if “SHE” makes the choices that enable “HER” to do so.
Trying to stuff every single member of each sex into some broad category violates the individual rights and initiative of all of them.
We’re not groups. We’re individuals.

Posted by Damnyanqui | Report as abusive
 

There are some depressing knee-jerk reactions here to this story (as always when a “women’s” issue is covered). There are lots of reasons why this pay disparity might be prevalent and some of them have been covered in the thoughtful post but many of the comments don’t bother to consider a complex issue properly. For instance, yes, where women choose family-friendly careers or take career-breaks for families they might expect to lose out but it happens even where they don’t. And even correcting for less remunerative degrees. And even when they are not doing “dangerous” work… Some of the reasoning is just scraping the bottom of the barrel. Here is some further evidence for the problem: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-2169 8522

I agree that there are lots of causes for this gap but one of them, though it pains the commentators to admit it, is just plain old discrimination. This is not liberal whining – the whining is upthread.

Posted by Londonist | Report as abusive
 

Umm there is no gender pay gap.

The brute pay gap is yes something like 25%. But then you start taking in account different field choices, different education paths, different work histories, different propensities to work long hours, different desire to take compensation as pay vs benefits. And the gap erodes and erodes and erodes until when you have all the controllable factors taken out something like 3-5%. Which is certainly in the realm of explainable by the uncontrollable factors.

Stop by into this wage gap myth. The marketplace is not out there discounting what people get paid based on their gender. If it was you would see some large successful companies employing nothing but women. But you don’t.

Posted by QCIC | Report as abusive
 

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