A Possible Route to Bridge the Gender Pay Gap
Better education, level-playing field at work to help women earn more than men
It's 2014, and women are still paid less than men. Does this suggest that a gender pay gap is an unfortunately permanent fixture? Will it still be with us in 50 years? I would predict yes. But by that point, it will be men who will be earning less than women. My forecast is based on evidence from schools, where it has been easier to work toward a level-playing field than in the workplace. Academically, girls have not merely caught up with boys in performance: they have overtaken them. In a study issued last year, and using data from 2000 to 2009, the economists Nicole M Fortin, Philip Oreopoulos and Shelley Phipps found that 20.7% of female high school seniors had an “A” grade-point average, versus 14.7% of boys. In 2012, more than 70% of high school valedictorians were girls.
The trend extends into college. One study of Florida public colleges, by the economists Dylan Conger and Mark C Long and covering the years 2002 to 2005, found that women had higher grade-point averages and were also more likely to stay in school. And the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F Katz also show in their book, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” how times have changed. They report that by age 30, a man born in 1945 was roughly 50% more likely than a woman to have completed college — but that men born from 1960 to 1975 were less likely to complete college than women. For the group born in 1975, the gap was nearly 25%. “Whenever educational opportunities are made available on a relatively equal basis for females,” Katz told me, “they tend to excel in completion and grades with some field differences.” As opportunities equalise in the workplace, will we also see a reversal of the gender pay gap? One reason to think it's possible arises from why boys underperform in school in the first place. The prime suspect for this underperformance is boys’ shortage of what social scientists call non-cognitive skills.