The Real Reasons Why Women Earn Less Than Men

by Ashley Stetts

I didn’t personally watch the Miss USA pageant (I can get critical and judgey) – but I couldn’t help but see the clip of Miss Utah fumbling her answer on how to address gender pay inequality.

“I think especially the men are, um, seen as the leaders of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to… create education better so we can solve this problem.”

I mean, if Miss Utah can’t offer any insight on this issue, what is to come of the world?! Even worse, she came in third place. I think the Jonas brothers were judging.

In any case, this really is a serious issue that boggles my mind. What are the real reasons women make less than men? A new study released last month from PayScale showed that men and women who work the same job actually get paid about the same when they are starting out in their careers, but as they move up the ranks, men’s wages start to increasingly outpace the ladies. This is backed by the findings of the National Women’s Law Center, that found that women hold almost 2/3 of low-wage jobs, and make up only 4 percent of CEOs at S&P 500 companies.

Women also tend to work in industries where there are fewer opportunities to advance into higher-paying jobs. For example, education is a female-dominated field, and a teacher might get tenure or become a school principal after working for 20 years.

Computer science and engineering are fields dominated by men, and an engineer will move up the pay scale more quickly, with raises getting much bigger over time. Investment banking is probably one of the most male-dominated fields, and on average, people in investment banking and hedge funds were making two to three times the amount of money as people (mostly women) in general management after 10 to 15 years.

So why are women staying away from jobs or positions that very obviously pay more money? A study by Matthew Bidwell found the following:


Women consider things like flexibility and work/life satisfaction more than men. Many of the high-paying jobs that are offered also come with low job satisfaction rates and long hours that take away from things that women feel will bring them more happiness. This obviously doesn’t mean that women don’t want to “work harder,” but they don’t think that the payoff is always worth the sacrifices of time spent away from home or family.

Job perception

Women also are less likely to apply for jobs they don’t identify with because of the masculine image attached to them. There’s no question that male-dominated industries tend to not be as “nuturing” in nature as those dominated by women. It is more comfortable to enter a field where you will not be the minority or you will risk feeling alienated. Women may also let this macho environment dampen their confidence in asking for a raise or promotion.


Lastly, because of these stereotypes, many women may not even apply to these jobs because they expect that their application will not be successful. Interestingly, when women did apply for investment banking jobs, they were just as likely to get them as the men who applied.

Negotiating skills

46% of men always negotiate salary following a job offer, compared to just 30% of women. And while 39% of men are apprehensive about negotiating, that number jumps to 55% for women. Why? Some say that women are socialized from an early age not to promote their own interests and to focus instead on the needs of others, so they just expect their hard work to be recognized and rewarded without asking.

On top of that, they fear that they will look pushy and bitchy if they DO ask – which studies have proven is actually the case when women aggressively ask for more money. So how do you balance these tricky issues to get the money you deserve? offers a good post on 7 Salary Negotiation Tips for Women.

I’m sure there are many more reasons, including the lack of government legislation controlling pay inequality, for the continuing wage gap, but at least naming some of these issues would have been a little more helpful to poor Miss Utah. Women already have enough external factors affecting their salaries – make sure you’re not letting your job perceptions or lack of confidence hold you back from that dream job.

Ashley Stetts | Elite.

To read more from Ashley visit her blog, The Frugal Model.

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