We reached a minor milestone earlier this month: women now hold more payroll jobs than men. They now hold 50.04% of these jobs, which exclude farm and household work, along with those who are self-employed.
We say “minor” milestone because women have hit this mark before during the 2010 downturn. This is the first time we’ve seen women outdistance men in a strong economy.
Will this reduce the wage gap?
Historically, women have made somewhat less for the same work than their male peers. The gender pay gap is calculated differently by different groups, but it’s usually estimated that the average woman makes about 81% of the average man. However it is calculated, there is evidence that at least some pay gap exists even when controlling for time spent on maternity leave, for example.
It’s not clear that this milestone will reduce the wage gap. At least, it may not indicate that women will soon make as much as men in payroll jobs. Instead, it may mean that men’s wages are dropping as highly remunerated job sectors like manufacturing succumb to automation or are moved abroad.
According to the New York Times, jobs that have traditionally been filled by women are on the rise, while most jobs traditionally filled by men are declining. Retail, hospitality, healthcare, child care, education and social services are all up, along with construction and business services. Mining, transport and warehousing, and manufacturing jobs have declined.
And jobs that women traditionally dominate are lower-paid. For example, caregiving jobs like health aide and preschool teacher are paid substantially less than comparable jobs dominated by men.
Even as these “pink-collar” jobs increase in society, they may not be attractive to men, according to sociologists. First, the wages may simply be too low to attract men who are seeking replacement jobs. Moreover, the low pay communicates to society that these jobs are not very important.
A recent experiment looked into the circumstances under which unemployed men would consider a traditionally female position. The researchers found that they were willing enough when considering job postings. However, if the position called for stereotypically female strengths, such as caregiving or interpersonal skills, they were less likely to say they were interested. Moreover, men are less likely to receive interviews in traditionally female-dominated roles.
The researchers said that there is one way to get men more interested in the jobs sectors that are growing: improve their wages and working conditions.
“There are immense economic benefits to these jobs,” explains one sociologist. “Inevitably, if they were more highly valued in our society, I think men would be more likely to enter them, and women would very much benefit from the higher wages.”