Elite Educated Women Face The Biggest Wage Gap In History

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Dr. Anne Montgomery, left, says her pay has lagged behind that of husband Dr. Glen Stream, center, because of trade-offs for her family. ‘To get back up to speed takes a while,’ she says. PHOTO: SANDY HUFFAKER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Many white-collar jobs give substantially larger financial rewards to those logging the longest hours and who job-hop often, phenomena that limit white-collar women who pull back for child-rearing. Researchers on the topic say ingrained workplace cultures also impede women’s earnings.

The gender pay gap has become a big issue in corporate boardrooms, state capitols and the 2016 presidential campaign. Executives and policy makers are weighing ways to bridge it, with ideas such as limiting employers from asking about salary histories and attempting to require wage transparency.

In elite tiers of business, employees aren’t seen as interchangeable and therefore earn premiums for working longer hours. “You work more hours, you work crazy hours, and you get not crazy-amount more—you get crazy-amount-squared more,” Prof. Goldin said in one lecture on the topic.

A Wall Street Journal examination of pay in 446 major occupations found that women in many elite jobs earn well below men, with professions such as doctors, compensation managers and personal financial advisers among those showing the widest earnings gaps. (See an interactive graphic exploring the pay gap across 446 occupations)

Wage transparency—requiring employers to report salary data—is “just not going to move the needle much,” says Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University economics professor and one of the country’s foremost scholars on gender and pay. Prof. Goldin found in a 2010 paper that men and women earned almost the same salaries right after receiving University of Chicago M.B.A.s. At least a decade after graduating, the women earned 57% of their male classmates.

The main factor, she and her co-authors concluded: Women became mothers, interrupted their careers and eschewed lengthy hours that generated higher paychecks. “These particular occupations,” Prof. Goldin says, “are not very forgiving of taking time off and having kids.”

The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Census Bureau data for the five years through 2014 found male doctors working full time earned about $210,000 annually on average. Female physicians made 64% of that, about $135,000 a year. Among personal financial advisers, men took in about $100,000 while women made about $62,000.

Many white-collar jobs give substantially larger financial rewards to those logging the longest hours and who job-hop often, phenomena that limit white-collar women who pull back for child-rearing. Researchers on the topic say ingrained workplace cultures also impede women’s earnings.

The gender pay gap has become a big issue in corporate boardrooms, state capitols and the 2016 presidential campaign. Executives and policy makers are weighing ways to bridge it, with ideas such as limiting employers from asking about salary histories and attempting to require wage transparency.

In elite tiers of business, employees aren’t seen as interchangeable and therefore earn premiums for working longer hours. “You work more hours, you work crazy hours, and you get not crazy-amount more—you get crazy-amount-squared more,” Prof. Goldin said in one lecture on the topic.

The factors fueling the U.S. gender earnings divide have changed significantly in the past three decades and could continue to make equal pay for women tough to attain. Photo: Adya Beasley/The Wall Street Journal

Women with bachelor’s degrees or higher earned 76% of their male peers in that group in 2014, according to the Labor Department. Women with less than a high-school diploma working full time earned 79% of male peers.

In some professions, such as pharmacists, Prof. Goldin says, there is greater pay parity because employers more easily substitute one worker for another.

Less-educated workers are also generally more interchangeable and often have less room to move up the pay scale, economists say, helping explain why those without college degrees have a narrower gender pay gap today.

This is a very concerning trend, the wage gap widens and nothing is done about it. This discourages young women to even get educated, why would they if they get so little reward for it?

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15 COMMENTS

  1. 0

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    Women should ask for more money, most private companies let everyone choose how much they deserve for the job, ask for more money. If women were cheaper, then why would men be hired? Logical solutions for simple problems

  2. 1

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    Story provides no useful new information. Minimum wage are/should be established by union contracts. Of the listed 15 major occupations, at least 6 have organized unions. How about comparing union and RTW wages in the 15 occupations?

  3. 0

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    Anyway whatever happened to all those people who claim that “money isn’t everything”? Isn’t this what women in general are doing, exchanging additional money for something else? Isn’t this the vaunted work-life balance?

  4. 1

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    I can tell you with little doubt why this gap exists in highly compensated professionals.

    Five of my six female professional colleagues choose to have a schedule that accommodates child care and flexible day time schedules.

  5. 2

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    Maybe there is something to men doing more housework. The only way I keep my wife gainfully employed is exactly that. Every weekend I dust, vacuum, clean all the mirrors and certain windows, and clean the bathrooms and kitchen. I own the litter box and pick up after the dog. I also get to do the yard work. I often cook dinner (and always breakfast) on weekends. Plus I manage the money and get the cars serviced.

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    As an employer and all things equaled out I wouldn’t hire any men. Somehow all things don’t equal out and in a 320 million person society it could be 100 different things. It has been my experience that the ability to command higher pay (nepotism excluded) is the difficulty of being replaced. The greater the need the higher the pay.

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      I would love that, I work at a cafe and I hate that computer nerds get more money than me when they jsut sit around? Fuck the system

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