Gender pay gap fuelled by perceptions of motherhood and the lack of women in tech, report finds

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research gives new insight into the reasons that women’s wages lag behind

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Women earn 23 per cent less than men, UN statistics show, and they have done for the last 20 years.

The numbers send a clear signal that the gender pay gap is difficult to change.

But a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research gives new insight into the reasons that women’s wages lag behind.

Researchers Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn found that the lack of women in certain industries and specific jobs is one factor.

“Significantly, women continue to lag in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),fields particularly in mathematically-intensive fields. And gender differences in college major have been found to be an important determinant of the pay gap between college-educated men and women,” they said.

Tech companies have to make more space for women to close the pay gap between male and female workers, the report found.

Susan Wojcicki agrees with this view. She wrote on the Huffington Post that closing the tech gender gap is necessary to keep women in the labour market. 

Only six per cent of the engineering work force is female in the UK, according to stats from the Women’s Engineering Society.

If outright sex discrimination has declined sharply, women’s career choices, affected by motherhood and family, are still creating inequality, the research found.

Nearly 90 per cent of women in the US do net get paid any family leave.

Mothers were perceived to be less competent and less committed to paid work. Lower starting salaries were recommended for them, according to the study. 

“Current research continues to find evidence of a motherhood penalty for women and of a marriage premium for men,” the report finds. 

“The greater tendency of men to determine the geographic location of the family continues to be a factor even among highly educated couples.”

The additional hours women might spent in housework and children are associated with lower wages, the study finds.

It does not get easier for women in highly skilled professions, where progress in pay equality has been slower, according to the research.

Female employees working at a higher level are more likely to be harshly penalised for time spent away from the office.

Although the study primary focusses on the US, much of what it shows is applicable to other countries, according to the writers.

The overall UK gender pay gap is 19.1 per cent, meaning a woman on average earns 80p for every £1 earned by a man - despite the Equal Pay Act coming into force in 1970.