Many readers have responded to my callout about the kind of cultural norms and pressures that might be affecting the way women make career decisions—which in turn affect their pay in the short or long run. One of these issues is the dual mystery of why stereotypically feminine jobs pay less, which might hold some answers as to whether women segregating into lower paying job is really the problem.
It’s natural to assess pay when choosing a job, but as discussed in many pay gap debates, men and women tend to prioritize different things when it comes to choosing a job. Pay is the measure we’re talking about, but hours, fulfillment, purpose, or lifestyle no doubt affect the equation. It’s also likely that some of these choices are based on the way people respond to social expectations: For women, this could be due to expectations at home regarding chores and childcare leading to a preference for jobs with more flexibility. For men, assortative mating might push them to jobs that project a “breadwinner” image to increase their chances of marriage. (More on this later!)
One reader wrote in about how jobs are priced. Economists will reason that wage differentials are the result of human capital (education, skills) and demand. Another reader, Andrew, questions this way of pricing, and how job choices are rarely just about salary. Further, that it’s important to disentangle women “choosing” lower paying jobs and employers choosing to pay “women’s work” less. Here’s Andrew:
There are many factors involved in choosing a job and that some things will be valued more than an incremental increase in pay. As a man who works as a schoolteacher, I have firsthand experience in why someone might choose a lower-paying career.
It is important to note that jobs that are traditionally considered “male” are consistently paid better than very similar jobs that were seen as “female.” For instance, why should doctors be paid so much
more than nurses, especially nurse practitioners? Or why should college professors be seen as higher in pay and prestige than K-12 teachers? [Anyone in those career fields want to sound off? Email hello@.] But even today, as more and more men enter these once almost exclusively feminine fields, the pay remains low.