The more women there are in a profession, the lower the salaries

... and vice-versa.  Programming, which is now a coveted career, started as a job for poorly paid secretaries in the 1970s, who were mostly women. Then men entered the field, and salaries went up as it grew more prestigious.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
The more women there are in a profession, the lower the salaries - NewsMavens
African-american woman at compuer 1970s, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The gender pay gap is notoriously hard to calculate due to the fact that many women have low-paying jobs, such as nursing or teaching in primary schools. Jobs such as engineering, or programming, or banking, are better paid -- and have more men working in them. It is tempting to think that if only more women pursued well-paid technical careers, the gender pay gap would close automatically.

However, the scientific evidence puts that to doubt: "women's" jobs are worse paid because they are primarily taken by women.

According to researchers from California, who studied the salaries of public officials in their state, this change generally happened after the share of women in the profession reached 60%.

In Germany, the salary declined slightly for every 10% growth in the share of women.The answer to this problem, according to researchers, is to start paying women who work in low-paying jobs (like nursing, or childcare), better wages and thus achieve more respect for working women in all walks of life.  

Details from the story:

  • In Germany, women earn 21% less then men. In part, this is due to the fact that they often occupy low-paying jobs, like cleaning, waitressing, or nursing
  • Many jobs that are seen as mostly "women's" today, like hairdressing, or teaching, or even waiting tables, weren't always like this: in previous generations, they were more prestigious and better paid, and more men were taking them.
  • Programming, which started as a dull technical job done by low-level office staff in the 70s gained status and became better paid and now, there are more men in this field.
  • This kind of gender change of specific jobs and whole fields is closely correlated with the percentage of women who do them: the bigger their share, the less pay there is for all involved.
  • According to the researchers, this is due to the deeply ingrained disregard for women in our societies, and the fact that even female bosses value work done by women less than that done by men.
  • If we ever want to change that, we should start not by simply encouraging more women to take up better-paid jobs such as engineering, but by paying more to those women who work in low-paying, low-status jobs like nurses, or primary school teachers. This is the way to make us respect women's work more.
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