Question about how gender wage difference statistics are calculated

I hear the statistic that women still earn only 70-75% of what men earn. I’ve heard it claimed that this is true even for the same job and was always skeptical of that. I’ve always suspected the disparity was due to men being more represented in higher paying technical and executive jobs thus skewing the average towards men.

An author was being interviewed on Colbert last night and the impression I got from her was that there is a discrepancy on average even among men and women holding the same job.

Which is true?

Here is a brief article from the New York Times which discusses the difficulties of making these assessments. In part it notes:

The 77 cents on the dollar statistic is just average wages compared. It is very difficult to control for all of the factors but as this articlepoints out most of the wage gap (an estimated 70%) is because men work more hours than women. It also points out that men are overrepresented in dangerous jobs, technical jobs and scientific jobs. Women also have less seniority in the jobs. Women also value human work environments than men and flexibility.

Speaking from my own experience in the biological science and defense industries (which is anecdotal and not evidence), I have seen both men and women enter the workforce at the same salary for a given position. Both fields have fewer women then men, so I think women tend to be less visible overall to management.

Now add in the fact that women can get pregnant and/or are more likely the ones expected to stay home when a child is sick, an elderly parent needs care, etc. due to whatever societal bias exists such that I see this happen when both parents work, and you have a minority group that are working fewer hours than their male counterparts. There are certainly exceptions and I knew plenty of women who were far smarter and accomplished than their male counterparts.

That said, all things being equal, if Dan and Jane both start out at Company X and are young, married professionals, I would argue Jane is far more likely to miss time at work than Dan, perhaps through no fault of her own. Dan is going to work more weekends, holidays, nights, etc. Dan will then get promoted faster than Jane, and thus Jane who started out ‘equal’ to Dan is now only making $0.70 to his dollar.

Yes, I know that is the ‘sexist jerk’ answer, but it is what I have observed in my own career, which is unfortunate. All things being equal, if I am a boss, and I give assignments equally to two different people who are equal in every way, and one person always delivers, while the other sometimes delivers and sometimes doesn’t due to whatever reason you want to give beyond their control (which includes if both are male and one is just sick more often then the other), who would I logically promote first? Over time you compare their salaries, and there will be a difference.

Cecil addressed the issue ten years ago: Are women paid less than men for the same work?

Another one is travel. The women in our office are not as willing to travel as much as the guys. In the end, it all adds up.

Men are also more aggressive negotiators for higher salaries and are four timesas likely to ask for a raise than women.

Also, too, the higher echelons on most occupations are mainly men. Partly this is experience - women’s equality hasn’t been around long for many professions. Partly it is the interruptions and less dedication (aka “a life”) mentioned above for women - they are less defined by what their work is, than by things like “being a mother”, while nobody says of men, “what defines his life? He’s a father.” Possibly sexist, but socially significant.

there’s also gender interests or abilities. The computer field is realtively new - there should be no gender bias. But, the overwhelming number of persons interested in working with computers and delving into the details are men. OTOH, life sciences, IIRC in Canada somewhere starting around 1990 or so the majority of medical school students were women. There’s an observation somewhere about nurturing vs. mechnics.

Finally, there’s the “elbows” phenomenon. It’s said men have sharper elbows; they are more willing to push their way up, push others out of the way, promote their own interest.

Also men, who decide who to promote, are “threatened” by smart or competent women. But sadly, maybe it’s the number of hours, maybe it’s the brain makeup, maybe it’s the lack of distractions like mothering, but most men throw themselves into their occupation or recereational passtime to a greater extent than women. they get the promotions, they higher pay, the recognition, the awards.

But when it comes to basic jobs - from clerk at the store to school teacher - pay rates are generallys set and accepted in a gender-neutral way. Just, thanks to “elbows” the school teachers are all paid the same but more men seem to be principals.

Not sure what to call this, but I think it may be a factor:

I have seen one man quit when he wasn’t getting along with co-workers. I have seen three women do that. I have worked with a lot more men than women. I currently work with a male drama-queen, which probably doesn’t stand out as much as if I’d said he was a drama-king, does it?

Now that you mention it, it does seem (antecdotally) like women are much more likely than men to quit an unsatisfying job. That means loss of seniority, and usually lower pay at the new job, at least initially.

I have heard this described as a gender role that may or may not be cultural or genetic. Boys are raised from birth to play team sports and get the job done with their team, even if they don’t personally like some guys. You can’t hunt a mastadon or play a game of baseball by yourself. Girls, OTOH, are less compelled to do group activities. Also, women generally tend to be more empathic or sensitive to social and emotional nuances whereas guys are oblivious to subtle social cues; so are less likely to mistake some social interactions or to pick up on social slights.

One of my pet theories is that women negotiate less during the hiring process. I’ve always wanted to see a comparison between (white-collar) employees who do at least 1 back-and-forth on salary and those who do not.