The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on women’s progress in the workplace: More than a million women are still missing from the workforce, according to recent research from the National Women’s Law Center, which finds that women of color along with those in low-wage and part-time occupations they were the most injured.
Experts predict an increase in the gender pay gap due to the economic turmoil caused by Covid-19. And although women face a persistent pay gap in nearly all professions, a new report from Payscale shows that the gap is wider in some sectors than others.
Payscale collected wage information from more than 933,000 Americans between January 2020 and January 2022 to determine which sectors have the most significant income inequalities between men and women.
Of the 15 sectors included in the report, Payscale found that the uncontrolled pay gap, which measures the average wage of all men and women in a given field, is greatest in five sectors. The following information shows how much women earn for every dollar a man earns.
Sectors with the largest gender pay gaps:
- Finance and Insurance (77 cents)
- Agencies and Consulting (83 cents)
- Healthcare (86 cents)
- Transportation and Warehouse (87 cents)
- Non profit (88 cents)
It may come as a surprise that most of these industries have a higher percentage of women working than men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women make up about 76% of healthcare workers in the United States and 65% of nonprofit workers, for example.
Ruth Thomas, a pay equity strategist at Payscale, points out several factors that widen the gap in these sectors, including less representation of women in higher-paid roles and the prevalent discrimination linked to gender stereotypes about women’s skills in mathematics and science.
Even when women pursue an advanced degree, the pay gap persists and, in some cases, widens. Payscale found that the biggest uncontrolled pay gap is for women with MBAs, who take home 76 cents for every dollar a man with an MBA earns. Women with a law degree see the smallest uncontrolled gender pay gap, however, earning 89 cents for every dollar earned by men with a law degree.
Thomas explains that this difference exists because the legal sector has a more rigid and fixed pay structure than finance, which determines bonuses on a more “discretionary” basis, which may favor men who are more likely to work longer hours and push for a raise.
Payscale also calculated the “controlled pay gap” for each sector, which takes into account the median wages for men and women with the same job title and qualifications. The report notes that even if the controlled gender pay gap disappears, however, the uncontrolled pay gap would persist as well-paid jobs are still more accessible to men than women.
Industries with the smallest uncontrolled pay gap tend to have more women in senior management and offer flexible ways of working, Thomas notes, that can help women reconcile childcare and caring responsibilities.
Sectors with the lowest gender pay gap:
- Arts, Entertainment and Leisure (96 cents)
- Real estate and lease / lease (94 cents)
- Construction (91 cents)
- Technology (90 cents)
- Education (89 cents)
“One of the arguments we often hear is that the pay gap exists because of women’s career choices,” says Thomas. “But I would wonder if these are real choices, or choices imposed on women, which are often limited to certain sectors due to the lack of paid family leave and flexibility in others.”
Closing the gap isn’t just about giving people the same salary for the same job – Thomas says companies should also consider how to improve female representation at all levels, be more transparent about their pay policies, and how they can better support women who they have lost or gone their jobs due to the pandemic.
“One of the positives of the Covid-19 crisis – and of the social justice movements that have emerged in recent years – is a greater focus on fairness in the workplace,” he adds. “But when we talk about fairness in the workplace, we are talking about much more than equal pay: it’s also about creating environments where everyone feels supported and has access to the same opportunities.”
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