Visualising the pay gap

// 2 March 2009

The New York Times has posted a handy graphic breaking down the pay gap by occupation.

This is obviously charting the pay gap in the US, but it’s none-the-less extremely interesting. Hover over the dots for more information.

Only four occupations have successfully closed the pay gap, or even slightly overshot – with women earning marginally more than men: data entry, postal services clerk, special eduction teacher and ticket agent. A number of other professions are close – women social workers earning only 1% less than their male co-workers.

Some of the biggest pay gaps seem to be suffered by laundry workers (31%), retail sales workers (35%), surgeons and physicians (40%), financial managers (37%), medical scientists (37%), compliance officers (33%)… it goes on…

(Via Miriam at Feministing).

Comments From You

Ellie // Posted 2 March 2009 at 6:07 pm

Interesting to see. I always wonder why this is such a hard problem to overcome, is it because a lot of employers don’t grade-scale jobs and are afraid of a breach of privacy if they publish individual earnings? is it the private sector or public as well? do the comparison levels stand up for men and women employed by the same company?

Jess McCabe // Posted 2 March 2009 at 6:15 pm

Well, Ellie, possibly one way to guess is to look at the situation facing local authorities, after comprehensive pay audits revealed mass pay gaps. So large were the pay gaps, that about a year ago it was estimated that 79 councils would have to stump up £2.8b to afford to pay their workers fairly.

My view is that only compulsory pay audits over a much broader range of employers will finally force companies to tackle the problem in a meaningful way…

CMK // Posted 2 March 2009 at 8:24 pm

These charts are interesting but only show part of the picture.

There was a very sizeable report last year that showed the pay gap was in favour of women up to the age of 29 (and single middle age women too actually). Then mysteriously the gap changed to favour men…. around the age of 30.

The report also showed that very few employers actually discriminated between employees within their organisation. The reason for different roles being paid differently was far more to do with how society values a role than the organisation; so cleaners get less than other roles across society not just other roles within society.

I do not have a solution, but I do know that any option that relies on individuals to raise the issue at work or is aimed at individual employers is unlikely to succeed. :-(

Anne Onne // Posted 2 March 2009 at 10:30 pm

I think Jess has a point: if it’s cheaper and socially acceptable/common to pay one lot of workers less, a lot of companies aren’t going to be in a hurry to address it because it could cost them significant money to do it. If we have a culture where these inequalities are the norm, no company will feel obliged to suddenly change, and it’s not very clear that there is a gap until some digging is done. It always surprises me when people claim there isn’t a pay gap when even councils and some companies admit there is one.

Depressing news, but all the reason to keep working on this…

Amy Clare // Posted 3 March 2009 at 10:09 am

In my opinion a lot of this inequality could be changed (both here and in the US) by making parental leave the same for both sexes. Then women’s careers won’t necessarily be harmed by having a family.

Anne Onne // Posted 3 March 2009 at 6:44 pm

Amy Claire: The thing is, it would only be the first step. As long as men feel socially encouraged to leave the burden of childcare to their female partners, they’re not gonna take leave even if it’s on offer, especially if their carreer may suffer from it. I know cool men who took paternity leave (a rarity that their colleagues found unusual) to help out, but if it’s a move that harms carreers, men are gonna be pressured to use their privilege of leaving women literally holding the baby.

What we need is a system that doesn’t penalise people for taking time out to care for children, for society to recognise and stand by the fact that raising children is a valuable commitment made by parents or guardians, and that whoever takes time to care for children won’t then be penalised over it for the rest of their carreer. It’s ridiculous that a few months’ difference can be seen as a reason to hold people back, as if people are taking leave for the hell of it so they can laze around. We need to change the attitude of employers and the government to parental leave, and to the role that childcare plays in society. We want parents to look after children (and crow constantly on how important it is and how working mothers are eeevil) and at the same time make parental leave or flexibe hours impossible or a huge cost to the individual.

I don’t like the constant focus on how many billions of pounds are lost when people have colds or through maternity leave or whatnot, because our society’s obsession with rendering all our lives in strictly monetary terms is deeply problematic. Life decisions are more than the net gain or cost to society, and our obsession with making as much money as possible off everything are a huge problem.

MsChin // Posted 4 March 2009 at 10:19 pm

Some years ago, Sylvia Walby’s analysis of gendered work showed that the UK pay gap varies across regions, and across the lifecourse; caring responsibilities and age are clearly important factors in the latter. In contrast to the UK, I believe that in Denmark, women can take up to 2 years parental leave and suffer no loss of status or barriers to promotion etc. A Finnish researcher I worked with was astonished when I told her that state childcare here was only available at that time for 3 year olds. So affordable childcare is needed, not just for pre-school age kids, but also outside school hours and during school holidays. You also have to be mindful that professional care outside the circle of family or close friends is not considered the best option in some cultures. And ethnicity can also be a significant factor in the pay gap…

Older women can find themselves with caring responsibilities in later life, eg: parents, partner or children with long-term incapacity, which can affect their earning capacity and impact on any future occupational pension. Their expectations in working and family life can be different from younger women, shaped by a world as they have learned to understand & negotiate it.

Variance in the pay gap across regions is interesting, as this can relate to historically gendered work and employment sectors eg: the ‘traditional’ skilled industries like mining or shipbuilding which paid male breadwinner wages and ‘traditional’ unskilled women’s work such as catering or cleaning, with lower wages. Without the public sector, which employs more women than men, I think the regional pay gap in particular would be much wider. The NHS and local government have been undertaking pay and grading reviews to ensure equal pay. This process is ending traditional benefits like bonuses for male waste collection workers, and resulting in pay increases for women cleaners and cooks. There are winners and losers – not everyone is happy with the outcome, but overall it appears to work.

And finally, it’s worth remembering that the government switched from measuring the mean to the median a few years ago, in line with Europe, which of itself narrowed the pay gap.

Tim Street // Posted 6 March 2009 at 2:11 pm

I’ve been trying to explain to a group of nurses this morning that women face discrimination in a number of ways, and the pay gap was one of them. They just could not understand how it is maintained, as their particular role is paid the same regardless of gender. Is Sylvia Walby (as mentioned by MsChin) a good place to start for an explanation please?

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