Why Are Women Making Less, Even in Female-Dominated Industries?

women make less

Historically, the three options a woman had for a career outside the home were: nurse, teacher, and secretary. Today, these are still some of the most female-dominated industries.

In fact, 93 percent of nurses are female. Female workers also make up 98 percent of K-3 teachers and 80 percent of all elementary and middle school teachers.

Traditionally female-dominated fields, paying men more

We all know most professions have a male majority, where females earn around 78 cents to every dollar earned by men.

And, overall, the highest male-dominated industries earn $40,000 more a year than the highest female-dominated industries.

However: Females still make less in female-dominated industries like nursing and teaching.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association focused on pay data from nearly 300,000 registered nurses. The study found that male nurses earn about $5,100 more on average than their female counterparts who hold similar positions. Rather than hit the glass ceiling, men in female-dominated jobs like nursing or teaching appear to glide up to higher pay and management positions on a “glass escalator.”

What this means for women is that there is no “safe” profession, free from inequality. Professions that once were female-dominated, which led to more advancement opportunities, and pay increases for women, are slowly providing way for the minority of male employees to advance more quickly. The concept that less men are in nursing/teaching fields, yet more men are advancing from the nursing/teaching fields, and being paid higher wages, is a frightening reality of income and promotion inequality.


No advancement opportunities for the educated

Since the late 1990s, boys have been 30 percent more likely to drop out of school than girls. Statistics like this one help account for the growing gender imbalance in higher education (60 percent of university graduates will soon be women in the U.S.)

We are feeding a paradox: An education system that produces a majority of female graduates (the majority of BAs, MAs and PhDs in the U.S. are now women). This pattern pushes educated women into a system that only promotes the types, styles, and tendencies often correlated with men. Instead of respecting that men and women are inherently different, we expect women (even when they are the majority in the field!) to act, and react as if we are all male. What impact will this have on our work force in ten years?

How can this be combated?

  • Skilled and accountable managers: Managers who are skilled at managing across gender differences, focus on equality as an organizational priority, and consistently try not to recognize one gender difference, style, speech, personality (etc.) paramount to the other.
  • Employees must know their worth, understand their professional salary average, and have expectations for equality. This includes going after available promotions, advancements, raises (etc.)–even when you don’t think you necessarily qualify.
  • The majority of career-specific positions offer a salary by region graph, as well as a list of typical benefits that you can look for. Here is an example of what a salary by region graph looks like. By doing your research you can preemptively know what the pay for each position is in that given state–and negotiate based on your skills, not your gender.
  • More women in the workforce (in varying fields) will help decrease the gender gap in fields heavily dominated by men.

image via Flickr

Author Bio

written by Lauren Penrod

@Lauren_Penrod is from Boise, Idaho. When she’s not writing about gender inequality or education, she is mothering two poodle mixes. 



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