Though headway has been made in bringing women’s wages more in line with men’s in the past several decades, that convergence seems to have stalled in more recent years. To help determine why, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, the authors of a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research parse data on wages and occupations from 1980 to 2010. They find that as more women attended and graduated college and headed into the working world, education and professional experience levels stopped playing a significant role in the the difference between men and women’s wages. Whatever remains of the discrepancy can’t be explained by women not having basic skills and credentials. So what does explain it?
The largest factor in the persistent wage gap is the dearth of women in specific jobs and industries, the researchers found. That means that narrowing the wage gap further requires making high-paying, male-dominated industries like STEM fields and tech companies more enticing and welcoming to women. And even before that, encouraging women and girls to take advantage of opportunities to explore and learn about fields like coding and science that remain male-dominated at both the professional and college level. This could help bring up overall wage averages, though it wouldn’t wholly address the gaps that remain between men and women’s salaries even within high-paying industries.