The pay gap

Most people will be aware of the pay gap – the difference between the median pay of men and that of women. In the UK it seems like a significant gap.

The ONS preferred headline figure is the difference in income between the median man (that is, the man who is exactly halfway between the highest earning man and the lowest earning) and the median woman. The reveals a gender pay gap of 9.1%.

The big question is why is there a gap? Is it because of discrimination or some other reason? Most explanations focus on one big reason that affects women and not men. Giving birth.

The years between 25 to 35 happen to be both the prime career-building years and the years when most women have children.

As a result when women should be making the most strides in their career they are not working. If they have children earlier than 25 then they have time to catch up. If they have children after 35 they are more likely to have only one child or they will have already got far enough in their career not to be held significantly back by child-bearing.

James Chung of Reach Advisors, who has spent more than a year analysing data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that actually the pay-gap is worse than you think. In some cases in the US it’s as high as 17%. Here’s the thing though: in this case it’s women earning more than men. Much more.

according to a new analysis of 2,000 communities by a market research company, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8% higher than those of the guys in their peer group. In two cities, Atlanta and Memphis, those women are making about 20% more. This squares with earlier research from Queens College, New York, that had suggested that this was happening in major metropolises. But the new study suggests that the gap is bigger than previously thought, with young women in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego making 17%, 12% and 15% more than their male peers, respectively. And it also holds true even in reasonably small areas like the Raleigh-Durham region and Charlotte in North Carolina (both 14% more), and Jacksonville, Fla. (6%).

There are some qualifications:

This reverse gender gap, as it’s known, applies only to unmarried, childless women under 30 who live in cities. The rest of working women — even those of the same age, but who are married or don’t live in a major metropolitan area — are still on the less scenic side of the wage divide.

There are jobs where physical strength is an advantage.

For instance, there are many more male firefighters than female firefighters. Part of this is likely due to gender differences in work preferences. But it is also partly due to the physical strength tests used in recruiting firefighters. These include being able to lift a 72kg mannequin and drag it for 45 metres. Many fit men can achieve this feat, but substantially fewer fit women can.

However as more and more developed economies shift to creating jobs where physical strength is of no advantage women are increasingly doing better than men. In the knowledge based economy we’re likely going to see a historic shift towards women over the next few decades as older generations of men retire and replaced more and more by women.

Gender equality or gender equity seems to be on its way to being achieved (for some anyway). Here are two different voices from two quite different viewpoints saying almost the same thing.

Beatrice Alba says:

Gender equality is seeing males and females as being of equal status and value. It is judging a person based on their merit, and not viewing them as inferior or superior purely based on their gender.

Matt Hosier says:

The main concern has got to be that we treat all people with dignity as those made in the image of God: male and female, professional classes and working class. It also means that we recognise that men and women are different and make different choices.

Gaps and inequalities are likely to continue to exist but in different shapes and places and no longer always favouring men.


Photo by Mike Licht,

Related posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.