Half of the unexplained gender wage gap, which means that women are paid less than men even when they are ostensibly doing the same jobs, is because men are doing different tasks to women, even if their jobs have the same title. That''s the conclusion of a study by Aspasia Bizopoulou, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society''s annual conference at the University of Bristol in April 2017.
The research looks at pay in nine European countries, and finds that only a third of the gender wage gap can be explained by women''s choice of occupation. When men and women seem to be doing the same job, this often masks differences in the things women and men do at work. On average, men tend to do more tasks such as presenting, negotiating and using spreadsheets, compared with women whose jobs have an identical title. These tasks increase male wages, creating an apparent wage gap for the same job.
''Accounting for the extent to which men and women do different activities under the same job title can explain up to 50% of the unexplained gender wage gap'', the author says. ''Men are observed to spend much more time than women in activities that appear to increase wages across all occupations, whether high or lower-skilled.''
During the 1960s and 1970s, our understanding was that, outside of discrimination, one of the primary drivers of the overall gender wage gap came from the type of careers that women chose to pursue. There was a strong belief that as more women entered the ranks of traditionally male occupations, we would observe a gradual decrease in the overall gender wage gap.
Both events happened – the gender wage gap has decreased since the 1960s and women are much more present now in occupations that used to be traditionally male. Nevertheless, the gap is still very much present today. What is extremely surprising, however, is that in recent studies for the United States and Australia, the majority of that gap was observed among men and women who are classified as doing identical work.
In my study, I confirm the same fact for another nine European countries. I find that once we control for individuals'' demographic characteristics, hours worked and education, at most 35% of the overall female gender wage gap can be explained by women''s choice of occupations, a similar proportion to the United States. That means that the majority of the gender wage gap exists among men and women declaring to be doing identical occupations. Why do we observe this?
One potential factor is that men and women may perform different roles at work, even when on paper they appear to have the same job title. I investigate this effect by looking directly at the daily activities undertaken by people performing the same job and I find substantial evidence of segregation of job tasks by gender. For example, a male executive secretary will report spending more time reading manuals, negotiating, advising and solving complex problems compared with a female executive secretary.
Overall, I observe that jobs where the actual tasks men and women tend to perform are different will have higher gender gaps. Yet, that does not necessarily mean that women are negatively affected by focusing on different activities to the men.
On the contrary, I observe that both genders would experience a wage boost if they were to move to an occupation with higher gender specialisation – however, the boost is up to seven times higher for men than for women. Accounting for the extent to which men and women do different activities under the same job title can explain up to 50% of the remaining and unexplained gender wage gap.
So why do men benefit more from task specialisation by gender than women? Both genders have a relatively equal distribution of lower and middle-paying activities such as typing, writing emails or selling – however, men are observed to spend much more time than women in activities that appear to increase wages across all occupations, whether high or lower-skilled.
These activities are communication tasks such as presentations, planning and negotiations and numeracy-based tasks such as using spreadsheets.
''Task Profiles and Gender Wage Gaps within Occupations'' – Aspasia Bizopoulou