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What Our Data Says About the Gender Wage Gap

Written by Michelle Silverstein

The wage gap between men and women is well-documented, and there’s much debate about the reasons behind the oft-cited statistic that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.  One common explanation for the wage gap is that it is, at least in part, affected by the types of jobs and industries that men and women choose for their careers. So we decided to dig into our own data to find out what jobs men and women were actually applying to the most.

As a pre-employment testing company, hundreds of thousands of job seekers take our pre-employment tests each year. This data provides us with insight into the types of jobs for which people apply. Here’s what we found:

Jobs by Gender Graphic

The two lists have notable similarities and differences. Customer service representatives take the top position for both genders, while retail sales fill the fifth position. Not surprisingly, the list for men skews toward more physically demanding jobs, such as laborers, team assemblers, and maintenance workers.

In contrast, women were more likely to apply for service-oriented jobs such as nursing aides, administrative assistants, tellers, accounting clerks, and office clerks. Men also tended to apply for roles working with computers while women were more likely to apply for organizational, financial, or managerial roles.

Again, none of this is very surprising, and the lists seem to conform to many of the assumptions we anecdotally make about the jobs that men and women choose.

What’s interesting is that when we compute a simple average of the expected national salaries for each list based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for the men’s list is $42,897 while the average salary for the women’s list is $35,811.

This calculation is a very rough estimate of the salary potential for the jobs that men and women are applying for. It doesn’t capture the number of jobs available in these positions, nor does it represent the number of people of each gender currently working in these positions. Rather, it represents the average salary for the jobs that men and women apply for the most.

What can be interpreted from this data? If anything, it confirms the idea that there is a wage gap, and that this wage gap may in part be influenced by the jobs that men and women apply for. This has broader societal implications about what types of jobs men and women are encouraged to seek, as well as the monetary value we place on different types of labor.  And none of this should distract us from the fact that there’s abundant evidence that women are paid less than men when they perform the same jobs.

Ultimately, there are likely to be many reasons behind why the wage gap exists, including discrimination, family responsibilities, and access to certain career paths and promotion tracks. Our data reveals that the division of jobs by gender is also a contributing factor; jobs predominantly done by women tend on average to pay less than jobs done predominantly by men. Nevertheless, the wage gap remains a complicated issue and more research is required to discern more of its underlying causes.

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