Women earn relatively more money when they choose careers not dominated by men, new research suggests.
A study of 20 industrialised nations found that in countries where men and women tended to work in different occupations the pay inequality between them was lower.
The biggest inequality in pay was found to be in Japan, with Slovenia being the fairest to women. In fact on average women earn slightly more than men in Slovenia.
Mexico, Brazil, Sweden and Hungary also saw average pay between men and women almost equal. In these countries men and women work in different occupations to a greater extent than in many of the other countries looked at.
Researchers from Warwick Business School, University of Cambridge and Lakehead in Canada discovered that the gap between men and women’s pay was larger in countries where they worked in the same job.
Women in the Czech Republic, Austria and Netherlands, all fared badly in comparison to men as they are more likely to work in the same occupations as men. The gap between their pay and men’s is higher than average, with the UK’s gap also higher than average among the 20 countries.
Warwick Business School’s Dr Girts Racko attributes the surprising results to the fact that when there are few men in an occupation, women have more chance to get to the top and earn more. But where there are more equal numbers of men and women working in an occupation the men dominate the high-paying jobs.
"Higher overall segregation tends to reduce male advantage and improve the position of women,” said Dr Racko.
"The greater the degree of overall segregation, the less the possibility exists for discrimination against women and so there is more scope for women to develop progressive careers.
"For instance, within nursing men disproportionately fill the senior positions...but the fewer the number of male nurses, the more the senior positions must be filled by women.
"Perhaps our most important finding is that, at least for these industrially developed countries, overall segregation and the vertical [pay gap] dimension are inversely related. The higher the overall segregation, the lower the advantage to men. This is directly contrary to popular assumptions.”
The research, published in the journal Sociology today [Tuesday December 18], compared the degree to which men and women are working in different professions with the gap between their pay.
Dr Racko, Professor Robert Blackburn, of the University of Cambridge, and Dr Jennifer Jarman, of Lakehead, used statistics for each country on the proportion of women and men in each occupation, and the overall average gap in pay. They correlated these to show the relationships between workplace segregation of the sexes and the gap in their pay.