Gender diversity

5 reasons the gender pay gap exists (yes, there’s not just one)

So you think the gender pay gap can be explained by career choice and motherhood? The reality is a little more complex.

By Lara Robertson

Gender diversity

So you think the gender pay gap can be explained by career choice and motherhood? The reality is a little more complex.

By Lara Robertson

If we hear one more person say “the gender pay gap doesn’t exist” we will possibly scream. It definitely exists, and it’s affecting women in every single country in the world. At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum predicts that it will take another 132 years before the gender pay gap finally closes. Admittedly this is a drop in the previous forecast of 217 years, we’re not keen on waiting more than a century to achieve equality, so let’s work on closing the gap. Knowing why a problem is occuring is the first step to achieving change. Here are six reasons why the gender pay gap still exists.


Discrimination And Bias In Hiring And Pay Decisions (Base Pay Gap)

Gender bias at both a conscious and unconscious level is still very much alive around the world. Although a study by Harvard Business Review found that women actually rank more highly than men in 17 out of the top 19 leadership qualities – including problem solving, communication skills and innovativeness – women are consistently overlooked by employers, who still tend to view men as being more competent.


Bonuses (Bonus Pay Gap)

Not only are women being short-changed when it comes to hiring decisions and negotiating salaries – we’re also receiving less in performance bonuses. An Australian study by Mercer found that men were receiving up to 35 per cent more in performance bonuses than women, despite receiving the same performance rating.


Working In Different Industries, With Female-Dominated Industries Attracting Lower Wages

Many discuss how women choose to go into lower-paid industries including childcare, social work, teaching and nursing, but few question why these female-dominated industries attract lower wages in the first place. A study that looked at US census data between 1950 and 2000 found when women entered a previously male-dominated industry, the average salary dropped. These findings led many social scientists to suggest that factors such as gender bias and social pressure not only devalue “women’s work”, but also discourage women from pursuing higher-paid, male-dominated jobs. 

Image credit: Brand X Pictures / Getty Images


Women Taking More Time Out Of Work To Raise A Family

As childbearers, women are still largely expected to be the ones who take time off work to raise children. However, the number of women having children is falling, while the number of men taking on more housework and the role of primary caregiver is on the rise. Hopefully these new trends mean more women will be able to pursue their careers regardless of whether they have a family or not.


Lack Of Flexibility For Mothers Returning To Work

Unfortunately, even if women try to return to work after having a child, they often face what is known as the “motherhood penalty”. As most workplaces still don’t offer much flexibility for mothers, they are often forced to take on lower-paying and less demanding jobs. However, even if they are able to find a job that suits them, mothers are much less likely to get an interview compared to fathers and childless women. What’s more, while women are penalised for having children, men are rewarded, with research from academic publisher and university affiliate Duke University Press finding fathers are more likely to be hired than childless men and tend to be paid more.

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