Yesterday we looked at the way labour is divided in the home. Today, we’re looking at the public sphere of the labour market, where an equally obvious division of labour exists.
One major thing we’ll be talking about is the way in which men dominate some industries while women dominate in others. A question we should think about is why it is that this unequal distribution comes about. Before you read on, take a look at this video- what influences the education and career choices we make in life?
While a large part of the wage gap overall can be ‘explained’ by pointing to experience, occupation and industry, recent research shows that around 40% of the gap cannot be explained by these factors, and can be chalked up to discrimination.
The wage gap is often blamed on lifestyle and parenting arrangements. Though we saw yesterday that parenting arrangements remain unequal and this does affect women’s opportunities in the labour market, we have plenty of evidence that shows that earning disparities exist from the start of men’s and women’s careers: among graduates working full time there is a “strikingly uneven” pay distribution even between men and women from the same types of university who studied the same subjects.
A 2013 study by the American Association of University Women found that, while women of all ethnicities working full time in the US earned an average of 78% of what men earned, women of colour experience a much wider wage gap compared to white men than white women do. For example, Hispanic or Latino women were found to earn an average of 54% of what white men earned; for African American women, the gap was 64%.
In the last two years, young women in the UK have begun earning more on average in their 20s than men the same age, but men still overtake them at all other times in their life. This has a lot to do with the unequal distribution of labour in the home, which we looked at yesterday, and a lot to do with labour market segregation and discrimination against women, which we’ll look at below.
In nearly every industry women struggle to reach the upper rungs of the career ladder in anywhere near the same numbers as men. There are also clear divisions between industries in terms of distribution of women and men- men dominate in some industries, whereas others are female-dominated. Differences in pay and in possibility of career progression result from these different types of segregation, as well as from the unequal distribution of men and women in part-time work.
Vertical (career hierarchy) segregation is produced as a result of many different factors. These range from sexist bias against women in decisions over advancement, training and promotion, to the ways in which the division of domestic labour (see yesterday’s post) results in women having to take more time out of the labour market than men, something which stunts their career advancement and which contributes to stereotyping (which in turn adds to discrimination against women- see below). Women hold only 8.6% of executive positions in FTSE 100 companies. The number of women in executive positions in FTSE 250 companies is only 4.6%, almost unchanged in the past 5 years. Well over a quarter of FTSE 250 companies still have an all-male company board. This is despite the fact that companies (across all industries) with the most women on their boards of directors “significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation – by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results.”
Even those women who have managed to pass through the glass ceiling to get a top-ranking position in the company hierarchy find that once they get there, they’re still not on an equal footing with men in the same position. For example, female CEOs earn 42% less than men in similar positions.
Horizontal segregation: In most industrial countries, men tend to dominate in sectors which have come to be considered masculine, while women are concentrated in supposedly feminine sectors, which also tend to be lower-paid, e.g. care work and secretarial work.
Some professions have been “feminized” over time as more and more women have taken up work in previously male-dominated industries; however, this has tended to lead to the decline in status of these professions. For example, in Russia, being a doctor is widely seen as a feminine profession, and is poorly paid (one of the worst-paid professions in Russia) compared to the status and pay of doctors in the US.
There is also inequality to be found in the distribution of women of colour in certain job sectors; among working women in 2014, it was found that only 26% of Hispanic women and 35% of black women were employed in higher-paying management or professional occupations, compared with 43% of white women.
Work performed mainly by women, especially care work, is undervalued and underpaid compared with male-dominated work, even when that work has been evaluated to require the same skill level:
“In the UK, this under-valuing of caring work is illustrated clearly by the rates paid to young people starting work after completing modern apprenticeships, with those qualified in early years childcare and education (97 per cent of whom are women) recently earning an average of £148 a week, compared with £242 for those qualified in engineering (96 per cent of whom are men), although all qualifications were assessed as being at an equivalent skills level (Wild 2003 and Equal Opportunities Commission 2003).”
The part-time gap: Women make up 33.2% of the total labour market, but hold 63.1% of part-time positions. Part-time work tends to be significantly lower-paid than full-time work, tends to be more insecure, and offers less opportunity for training or career advancement. The overall wage gap between men and women is often attributed to the fact that many more women than men take these part-time jobs; however, while part-time female workers earn only 59% the hourly wage of full-time male workers, full-time female workers still only earn 82% of the hourly wage of full-time male workers. (Bryson, in Browne: The Future of Gender, 2007, p.46)
All of these different kinds of segregation come together to produce a labour market in which women are concentrated in certain kinds of jobs, which tend to be lower-paid than jobs in industries where men dominate.
Women are assumed to be less competent, agentic and work-oriented than men, due to dominant stereotypes. It is also assumed by many employers that young women will at some point have children and so take time out of the labour market (an assumption which is reinforced by the continuing inequality in the domestic division of labour we looked at yesterday). However, when women defy the stereotype and display these qualities, they face further discrimination for violating gender norms.
The same attributes that are encouraged and praised in men in the workplace are seen through as negative when they appear in women: this is normative discrimination, when women are penalised for acting in a gender non-conforming way (i.e. for behaving in ways which are traditionally masculine).
Status discrimination is discrimination against women on the basis of stereotypes which produce or justify sexist bias.
For example, a 2016 study found that women are generally perceived to lack the qualities needed for success in science, stereotypes about high-status occupational roles being incompatible with stereotypes of women. This causes discrimination against women in STEM fields: in a 2012 Yale study, 127 (male and female) scientists were asked to review fake job applications of identically qualified male and female students, and were found consistently to give the male ‘candidate’ a higher score on criteria such as competency, and to be more likely to hire the male, as well as being willing to pay male ‘candidates’ on average $4000 more than the female ‘candidates’ when asked to suggest a starting salary.
This stereotype, that women are not as capable in STEM fields, is one which keeps being reproduced, despite evidence against it. Another study this year found that men enrolled in undergraduate biology classes:
“consistently ranked their male classmates as more knowledgeable about course content, even over better-performing female students. Men ranked other men by 0.57 GPA points (on a 4 point scale) higher than equally performing female students.”Using UW’s standard grade scale, that’s like believing a male with a B and a female with an A have the same ability,” said co-lead author Sarah Eddy. This was not true of female biology students who ranked equally male and female peers.”
(Summary from Women In STEM Resources)
The flip-side of discrimination against women is unearned privilege that men gain by simply being men. In already-male dominated workplace environments, men have an advantage, as studies have found what we already basically knew- managers hire people they can relate to, people who remind them of themselves. Men are more likely to hire or promote other men, because they remind them of themselves.
The motherhood penalty and the fatherhood bonus
A 2007 study asked panels to evaluate application packages that were identical except for one line in the CV: “Active in the PTA.” Evaluators rated apparent mothers as less competent and committed to paid work than non-mothers. Prospective employers called mothers back about half as often. Mothers were less likely to be recommended for hire, promotion, and management, and were offered lower starting salaries. However, apparent fathers (male applications with “Active in the PTA” in their CV) were seen as more committed to paid work, and were offered higher starting salaries.
Evidence of success and competence doesn’t prevent discrimination against mothers- a 2010 study found that evaluators discriminated against highly successful mothers, perceiving them as “less warm, less likeable and more interpersonally hostile than otherwise similar workers who are not mothers.” The opposite was true for fathers, who were seen by evaluators as more warm and likeable than non-fathers, as well as being seen as more mature and stable and thus more suitable for management positions.
A woman with a child under 11 is 45% less likely to be employed than a man, and that figure is 49% for a single mother.
Single men are disadvantaged at work compared with married men (in terms of pay, promotions, and how warm, mature and likeable they are perceived). Married women are disadvantaged compared to single straight women and single/cohabiting lesbians. Heterosexual marriage is good for men’s careers and bad for women’s.
Social norms and expectations of femininity and masculinity, and of motherhood and fatherhood, are deeply engrained in us as result of our upbringing in a society where behaviours, personality traits, occupations and actions are all gendered (we’ll look more closely at this on Day 9). These expectations, even if we don’t realise it, affect our thoughts and decision-making. We may not recognise our own biases until we look for patterns and think critically about how we make choices.
Want to read more?
- Women In STEM Resources
- Office for National Statistics: UK Labour Market June 2016 Statistical Bulletin
- US Census Bureau: ‘What It’s Worth: Field of Training and Economic Status in 2009’
- Women of Colour and the Gender Wage Gap
- Business In The Community: Women and Work Fact-sheet
- American Association of University Women: ‘By the numbers: A look at the gender pay gap’
- Journalist’s Resource: ‘Gender gap in executive compensation: The role of female directors and CEOs’
- The New York Times: ‘The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus’
- Footnote: ‘Research Reveals How Stereotypes About Leadership Hold Women Back’
- The Guardian: ‘UK women remain concentrated in lower-paid work, figures show’