Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gender and College Majors

I recently came across this article:

The primary point of this article is that one of the reasons men make more money the women is the choice of college major - that accounts for 19% of the income gap for the high school class of 1999. This isn't particularly surprising - men choose engineering more, women choose nursing more...this ends up skewing the aggregate pay comparisons between men and women. Fine.

The more disturbing stat is that once women begin achieving parity in male-dominated fields, overall pay for that career goes DOWN. Case in point is biomedical engineering. Yes, engineering. Now that it's basically 50-50, pay has stagnated, whereas male-dominated engineering fields, like electrical engineering, are still highly paid.

They suggest one reason could be that women don't negotiate as much, bringing down the aggregate pay rate of a field when they enter a field en masse. Or that once women join a field in large numbers, the field becomes less valued.

Either way, it's pretty depressing. Selfishly, I guess I'm glad that I'm the only woman for miles in my company. In a larger's pretty depressing. What do you think it is? The lack of negotiation of the devaluation of a field once many women enter it?


EthidiumBromide said...

I wonder if this could have something to do with more women working part-time in certain fields than men? It certainly is a depressing statistic, but perhaps that explains a small part of the differentiation.

microbiologist xx said...

Is it really true that women don't like to negotiate or is that just an assumption made in the article? To me negotiating is more likely to be done by people who have more experience. For example...
when my husband first started out in his field he never negotiated for anything, but he find out from all his co-workers that they negotiated extra vacation, bigger salaries and all kinds of perks during the hiring process. Now, a few jobs later he routinely negotiates for all of these things and gets them, even vacation, which most places try to pull the whole "company policy" line. Apparently, this is very common as the people who told my husband he needed to negotiate better deals were told the same things when they were starting out in the same types of positions. Maybe people who are new to interviewing for a professional position, don't realize that this is an option or maybe they just feel intimidated due to lack of experience.

ScienceGirl said...

Microbiologist: it is true that women don't negotiate; for example, see book.

PD: I tend to lean towards lack of negotiation. I guess supply and demand have an impact (presumably when women enter the field, the supply doubles), but I doubt it is that simple.