Examining the Gender Pay Gap: Industries Where Women Still Make Less Despite More Challenges

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Women have come a long way in achieving equity in the workplace over the past couple of decades, but the gender pay gap still persists. Women are still only making, on average, about 82 cents to every dollar that men earn, according to Payscale’s annual 2022 State of the Gender Pay Gap Report. However, that number goes down even lower for minority women, because both gender and racial biases “create obstacles to hiring, pay raises, referrals, promotions, and leadership,” the report’s authors write.

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While the gap is closing — women were earning about 73 cents to the male dollar in 2014 — systemic biases and perceptions continue to work against women earning their true value in the workplace. These biases translate to women being essentially guided toward lower paying work, or toward careers that relate to housework, homemaking and child care, and caregiving.

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The study authors write, “It is also worth noting that work designated as ‘women’s work’ is also perceived as less valuable — unless men enter those occupations.”

Women are also generally expected to sacrifice careers for child rearing. The high cost of child care in this country also prohibits some women from working because it doesn’t make financial sense. Mothers also experience what Payscale refers to as the “motherhood penalty,” meaning that when they are the primary caregiver for their children, they earn even less — closer to 74 cents in comparison to male parents.

While this gender pay gap exists in almost every industry, some industries are worse offenders than others when it comes to paying women less than what they pay men. Here’s a closer look.

Finance & Insurance, Agencies & Consultancies

Careers in these financial and insurance fields pay women about 77 cents to the male dollar, reported Payscale. Agencies and consultancies pay women about 83 cents to the male dollar. All these categories are prey to gender stereotypes that suggest women aren’t good at math, problem solving and related tasks, even though both industries have more women — around 53% — than men.

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Management & Consulting

The pay gaps are also still glaring in management consulting, said Emily O. Weltman, founder and principal consultant at Collective Flow Consulting.

“At both small independent consultants and at the large firms, gender pay gaps are persistent, as is [lack of] representation of Black, brown, and Indigenous women,” she said.

She feels that the moves to close these gaps have been nothing beyond “performative,” which is reflected in the numbers. Moreover, she added, “There is a fundamental lack of respect in the industry for women, non-binary, and trans people. Men are still seen as the ones with knowledge, expertise and wisdom to pass on. They still dominate every area of business and economics while women are often referred to as ‘coaches’ for doing the same job as a ‘consultant.'”

Transportation & Warehousing

This industry pays women about 96 cents to the male dollar — which is good, relatively speaking — but is also notorious for being rife with discrimination and stereotypes that women don’t have the physical strength for the kinds of lifting, hauling and other tasks as compared with men.

Higher-Paying Professions

Rather than getting better, Moses fears the gender gap in some fields is actually worsening due to factors including the under-representation of women in higher-paying professions and the prejudice associated with gender stereotypes regarding women’s aptitude for math and science.

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“The salary disparity still exists and, in some circumstances, even gets wider for women who pursue higher degrees. Women with MBAs experience the biggest unrestricted pay disparity, earning 76 cents for every dollar earned by a guy with an MBA.”

The Pandemic’s Toll on Women

When things get tough economically, women tend to suffer more in the workplace. Candice Moses, financial data analyst and CMO of Information, pointed out that “More than a million women are still missing from the labor sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a disastrous effect on women’s advancement in the workplace.”

She added, “The most affected groups are low-wage and part-time workers, as well as women of color.” Moses explained that experts anticipate that “the economic unrest brought on by COVID-19 would cause the gender pay gap to worsen.”

According to Prudential’s first Pulse survey, Americans Prepare for the Economy’s Next Act, women are experiencing a “she-cession” where they have and may continue to be forced out of the workforce and face greater barriers to re-entry. The survey found that less than half of women (46%) said their financial confidence had grown during the pandemic, compared to 55% of men. Additionally, women own fewer financial assets such as emergency savings, retirement plans and accounts such as pensions or mutual funds than men.

Industries With Better Pay Equity

Despite these ongoing struggles, there are some industries doing a better job, according to the Payscale report, including technology; engineering and science; real estate; and arts, entertainment and recreation.

Moses also reported that the unrestricted gender pay disparity for those with a legal degree is smaller, with women getting 89 cents for every dollar made by males with a law degree. “This discrepancy arises from the fact that the legal industry has a more rigid, fixed compensation structure in comparison to finance, where bonuses are decided more ‘discretionarily,’ which can advantage men who are more willing to put in extra time and request a raise.”

The gap may be closing, but the data shows there’s still a significant amount of work to be done to truly take it all the way.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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