Report shows the gender pay gap is real, but complicated

The data was collected by PayScale.

Women make less than men in every industry.
Women make less than men in every industry. –Shutterstock

Women make less money than men on average. There’s no debate there. But a recent report by compensation information company PayScale highlights all the ways the pay gap is more complicated than you might think.

Collecting data from roughly 1.4 million full-time employees between July 2013 and July 2015, PayScale’s “Gender Pay Gap Report’’ examined the difference in median earnings of men and women across industry, degree level, generation, state, marital status, and management standing by using its own compensation algorithm.

Broadly, analysts found no industry where women earn equal pay as men, and determined that while male salaries continued to increase until they reach the age range of 50 to 55, leveling off at a median salary of $75,000, women’s salaries plateaued much earlier, between the ages of 35 and 40, at a median of $49,000.

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Controlled vs. uncontrolled

PayScale examined the gender pay gap from two different angles, “controlled’’ and “uncontrolled.’’ Controlled findings took into account outside factors across gender like years of experience, education, company size, management responsibilities, skills, and more, and calculated the difference in pay between similar men and women working the same jobs. The controlled gender pay gaps were notably smaller than the uncontrolled gender pay gap across job sectors, since PayScale was comparing men and women who had very similar backgrounds and positions within their industry.

Uncontrolled gender pay gaps, however, were measured by comparing the national median pay of men and women in their industry without controlling for outside factors such as years of experience and education. This provided a picture of the differences in wages earned by men and women in an absolute sense, and the uncontrolled gender pay gaps were far wider, suggesting that in many fields, women hold less powerful positions than men in general and have lower incomes.

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Jobs with the best work-life balance, according to Glassdoor:

Legal occupations, for example, saw the largest overall uncontrolled gender pay gap at 38.6 percent, even though 68 percent of workers with this type of job are female. This job category includes lawyers and legal support workers, so PayScale suggests the pay gap stems from women dominating lower-paid support positions, while men dominate higher-paying jobs in the legal field.

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Meanwhile, the tech sector had the smallest uncontrolled gender pay gap (20.7 percent), and the smallest controlled gender pay gap (1.4 percent) out of all the industries surveyed.

Boston’s overall gender pay gap was fairly consistent with national numbers, but in comparison to other tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle, the gap in Boston was smaller, said PayScale editorial manager Aubrey Bach.

“Tech is such a highly-skilled field, that when you compare men and women in the same job, pay is closer to equitable,’’ Bach explained. “However, it’s alarming that so few women work in the tech industry overall, and that so many women leave to apply their skills to other industries. Also, very few women in tech rise to leadership, and at the executive level, the controlled gender pay gap is actually greater than the national number.’’

Life stages

Though the tech sector might have it worst, PayScale found that the gender pay gap generally widens the higher up the executive ladder you go, no matter which industry you’re looking at. On average, male executives earned 6.1 percent more than female executives, even when controlling for variables like age and experience.

Regardless of pay, women in the boardroom are few and far between. Women led only 22 of the current Fortune 500 companies. And that fact doesn’t bother everyone equally. In a recent survey of 800 public company directors by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, 63 percent of women said gender diversity is “important,’’ while only 35 percent of men directors felt the same.

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PayScale found the largest gender pay gap to be between married men with children, and married women with children, with the fathers pulling in median salaries of $67,900, compared to $65,000 for the mothers. Single mothers have it hardest, making a median income of $38,200.

In Boston, however, the gender pay gap between married mothers and married fathers was actually smaller than the overall pay gap, at 1.9 percent. Nationally, this population usually reports a much larger pay gap of 4.2 percent.

And while having a college degree certainly helps both genders make more money, education has no impact on the gender pay gap. In fact, those with PhDs had the highest controlled pay gap at 5.1 percent, followed by MBA holders at 4.7 percent.

“We hope that this study will help people understand the gender pay gap in greater detail and look at it in ways they have not before,’’ said Bach. “PayScale strongly believes that the only way to close the gender pay gap is by understanding it, and that as a result of this study, both employers and individuals will be able to take action to make pay equity a real possibility.’’

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