The Reason for the Gender Pay Gap Is Even Worse Than the Gender Pay Gap

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As the world turns and the gender pay gap persists, the one question we continue to ask is how we go about closing it. But a new study performed by researchers at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Haifa in Israel pivots, instead, to ask something else: “How did it even get to be like this in the first place?”

The study, published in Social Forces, found that the real problem at hand with the gender pay gap is that when women began to transition into typically male-dominated careers, the overall average pay in that field began to drop. Using United States Census data from 1955 to 2000 — and even with a careful control for education, work experience, skills, race, and geography — researchers found that once women began entering a workforce, their male bosses started considering the work they did less valuable. Cool. From the Times:

A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.

The drop in wages matched for several other industries, too: When women became designers, housekeepers, and biologists, wages dropped off significantly. In fact, when men entered into a traditionally female industry, they started getting paid more than women. “Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women,” the Times reports, “but when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”

Hey, here’s an idea that should set all this straight: Pay women more.

Employers Put a Lower Value on Work by Women