Even Science Says Sexism Is To Blame For The Gender Pay Gap

Even Science Says Sexism Is To Blame For The Gender Pay Gap
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Today marks Equal Pay Day, when based non the disparity in pay between men and women, the latter are effectively working from free from now until the end of the year. It’s an emotional topic, but what does science have to say about the whole issue?

A common argument for why the gender pay gap exists is that women tend to work in lower-paid occupations. But new in-depth research has found even when contributions to their employers are the same, women are still paid only 84 cents for every $1 men receive.

Why? Well, it’s sexism, they say.

The researchers looked at a decade’s worth of wage and productivity data, and found women being more likely to work in low-paying industries such as food and beverage services only accounted for 7 per cent of the pay gap.

Looking closer at for-profit firms, the researchers found a 16 per cent gender wage gap for women making the same contribution as men. By comparing the gap across industries and years, the researchers concluded that factors like willingness to bargain are unlikely to play a big role in the gender gap, but sexism is likely to be a major driver.

“This study is different to most previous wage gap studies in that it tests whether men and women are paid different wages for adding the same amount of value to their employer,” said Isabelle Sin, Fellow at Motu and lead researcher.

The study started by looking at 50 percent of the working population between 2001 and 2011 to see how much of the overall gap between women and men’s wages is to do with women working in industries that pay less.

“We found that women were over-represented in low-paying industries like food and beverage services, but this explains a mere 7 per cent of the entire gender wage gap (or a couple of cents in every dollar),” said Dr Sin.

“If you add in the fact that women also tend to work in low-paying firms, we can say that 12 percent of the overall gender wage gap is due to the particular industries and firms where women work,” said Dr Sin.

The study then looked at productivity and wages of men and women in private for-profit firms with at least five employees and found a 16 per cent gender wage-productivity gap, meaning women are paid 16 per cent less for making a contribution of the same value to their employer.

“Previous studies used observable characteristics such as education and age to capture differences in the value contributed by employees. In contrast, we used employee-level data linked to business information. We looked directly at how the output of similar firms varies with the gender mix of the employees, and used this to infer the relative value male and female employees add to their firms,” said Dr Sin.

“We didn’t find any evidence that young women are paid less than young men for work of the same value, but there was a 16 per cent pay gap for women aged 25-39, a 21 per cent gap for those aged 40-54, and a 49 per cent gap for older women.”

The gender wage-productivity gap is also higher for employees who have worked at the same firm for longer.

“For both genders, productivity is higher for workers who have been at the firm for longer, but the wages of women with greater tenure are not commensurately higher. That is, the gender wage-productivity gap does not go away once women have had the chance to demonstrate their worth to their employers,” said Dr Sin.

The gender wage-productivity gap was particularly marked in a few industries.

“The gap was over 40 per cent in finance and insurance, telecommunications, transport equipment manufacturing, water and air transport, and electricity, gas and water, and rail. It’s worth noting that these are all sectors that have the potential for monopoly-created profits and have low competition,” said Dr Sin.

Based on how the gender wage-productivity gap varies across industries and years, the research also concluded that differences in willingness or ability to bargain are unlikely to play a major role in the gender wage-productivity gap.

“To put it simply, our research suggests sexism is likely to be a major driver of the gender wage gap. What we’re going to do about it is another matter,” said Dr Sin.

Dr Sin is, however, encouraged by the ability to use this kind of analysis to better understand other workplace discrimination.

“This is a really useful methodology to look at wages gaps of all kinds. We’re hoping in the future to look at differences by such characteristics as immigration status, ethnicity, and family status,” said Dr Sin.



  • I’m not sure any of what I read above can lead to the conclusion: “because sexism”. What is the actual mechanism the research claims is the cause for the disparity?

    If it’s not about bargaining and negotiation, are payroll and HR somehow conspiring to pay women less?

    And – what’s the actual solution? The government should intervene and be responsible for setting salaries? That individuals shouldn’t be able to negotiate a salary, or put forward a case for a promotion? There’s already laws against discrimination based on gender.

    There’s laws against discrimination based on gender – perhaps women aren’t as good at negotiating as men?

    And if you got to the end of this and think I’m a sexist for questioning the politically correct acceptable viewpoint, congratulations!

  • Not to argue for/against the existence of a gender pay gap, but quoting the findings of a think tank and calling it ‘science’ is extremely misleading. Think tanks are private organisations that generally perform (half-assed) research into whatever topic their funders pay them to investigate. When a funder has a particular ideological slant, the research conducted by the think tank generally comes out agreeing with whatever their position happens to be.

    I’m sure there’s plenty of peer-reviewed, ‘real’ scientific studies that could demonstrate the existence of a gender pay gap. And if there isn’t, well, it certainly makes me wonder just how much trust I should be placing in unscientific or unreviewed ‘research’ that proves the existence (or non-existence) of such a pay gap.

  • Having read the source article…its clear that you have been selective in your examples to “support” your pre-conclusion.

    This is straight from the source article.

    “A second possibility, as discussed in Card et al. (2016), is that a subset of firms are profitable and share rents with their employees and that women are not as good as men at getting a share of these rents”

    “On the other hand, there are twelve industries where women are paid relatively less than their marginal product and the gap is over 40 percent in five of these: Finance and Insurance, Telecommunications, Transport Equipment Manufacturing, Electricity, Gas and Water, and Rail, Water and Air Transport. It is worth noting that these are all sectors that are typically thought to be non-competitive with large amounts of rent sharing. ”

    ” In the 40-54 year-olds group, women are substantially less productive than men. This could
    reflect some combination of the selection of women who remain in the workforce, skill
    depreciation that occurs after the main childbearing years, and birth cohort effects”

    ” We find no evidence of a gender wage-productivity gap for young women”

    ” There are two industries, Agricultural Support Services (AA32) and Building Construction (EE11) where women are paid relatively more than men but are relatively less productive”

    ” The remaining gender wage gap could come about because women are less good at bargaining for firm rents”

  • Owell. Here’s the deal:

    1: Economics isn’t a science.

    2: Economists aren’t scientists.

    3: Science is published in peer-reviewed journals.

    4: Yes, Rae, many of us have faced challenges more ‘insidious than sexism in tech- reporting’.
    Many of us have had jobs where people were trying to murder us, or we’ve cared for someone dying of degenerative disease, or we’ve simply risked our lives every work-day for our society. I’ve done all three, so, while I sympathize with your problems, I feel only derision when you over-dramatize them.

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