Interesting how the story on the gender pay gap changes, isn\’t it?

But, according to HECSU\’s reseach, a gap persists even if men and women have the same qualifications. Female law graduates, for instance, can expect to earn 28% less than men at the start of their careers. They earn just over £20,000 on average – nearly £8,000 less than their male counterparts. This was despite that fact that more women than men applied to study law at university, out of those surveyed.

The same gap was found right across higher education subjects. Women who read medicine earned 9% less than men. And, out of those who studied physical sciences, women\’s wages were £3,626 lower. In education, there was a 4.3% gender pay gap: women\’s average wages were £21,679 compared with £22,661 for men.

A few years back the story was that all women earn, on average less than all men. Something which is true. Then people started to look into the statistics (and I played a very small part in this) and we saw something rather interesting in said statistics.

The pay gap comes and goes dependent upon age cohort. For those 16-21 it\’s very definitely a pay gap in favour of women. For those 21-30 it\’s around and about equality. Then for those older than 30 it opens up to being in favour of men. Up at the top of the age range it\’s still in favour of men.

That last is an effect of undeniable past discrimination. Those born in hte 50s did not have equal access to higher education for example: not as it actually worked out at least.

But among the younger cohorts, that pay gap is entirely consistent with the explanation that it\’s all about children, not gender per se. 30 is the average age at primagravidae these days.

Which leaves campaigners with something of a problem really. If, on average, using the method they\’ve used for decades to measure the gender pay gap, there isn\’t a gender pay gap, then in order to keep the show on the road they\’ve got to use some other measurement method, don\’t they? Which is what they\’re doing here. Instead of lookinig at the average population they\’re now looking at those doing \”the same job\”.

And that\’s going to be a very difficult furrow to plough if we\’re to be honest. For we\’ve another set of statistics out there. The male and female pay numbers for the very same jobs. As a nurse, as a dustman, as a clinical lab assistant and so on. And those show that, outside a couple of fairly obvious exceptions (where brute physical strength is needed for example) there really is no gender pay gap observable. But anything to keep the show on the road, eh?

38 thoughts on “Interesting how the story on the gender pay gap changes, isn\’t it?”

  1. Tim, you seem not to have addressed what this report is actually saying, which is that a recently qualified female law graduate in full-time employment can expect to be paid

  2. “This was despite that fact that more women than men applied to study law at university, out of those surveyed.”
    Ah ,but could that be telling us something? Lawyering isn’t a uniform employment. Different fields of lawyering may provide different remuneration. If women are choosing particular fields, then those fields will have relatively more lawyers wishing to work in them & competition for employment will be stronger. Thus reducing pay bargaining power. Market forces behaving as expected.

  3. PaulB, he’s saying that as the thing they’re trying to illustrate becomes less prevalent they’re reduced to highlighting ever smaller examples, because in general what they’re saying is not true. Ergo if right across the board women were payed less than men for doing the same job, they’d say so. But because this isn’t the case they need to find the small exceptions.

    Anyhow back to the case of the lawyers. IANAL but I know there are lots of different specialities within the law, and it might be the case female graduates choose those that pay less. But that doesn’t fit the narrative so this article doesn’t consider it. I’m filing it under more lying by lefties.

  4. I[apostrophe redacted]m filing it under more lying by lefties

    Well you would, wouldn’t you, because not a single word of it appears to be untrue.

    My point, before the rats got at it, was that whatever the explanation for this, it’s not Tim’s favourite one that women have children and look after them.

  5. Tim doesn’t seem to have read it right. It’s not comparing “the same job”. It’s comparing “the same qualification”; law graduates, medical graduates. Etc.

    Which brings us to an immediate problem of not knowing whether they’re doing comparable jobs (the thing that actually pays them) with their comparable degrees.

    One speculation (I have no statistics for or against, it’s merely speculation); we know that women are the moralist gender. It may be they’re disproportionately going into more “worthy” but poorly paid positions after Uni as part of that save the world crusader mentality; which are also career choices that may pay off later on with power and influence in the mithering/charidee network.

  6. I think one interesting thing is, what are the PayGappers actually implying? Are they saying that right across industry (and this includes apparently the public sector too) managers are deliberately implementing “pay women less” policies, or what? If this pay gap really is a phenomenon of sexism, what is the proposed mechanism?

  7. There isn’t a gender pay gap for young lawyers. Law firms aren’t deciding to pay women less because they’re women (if this were the case why, all other things being equal, would you ever hire men?)

    There is a large pay gap between people working for magic circle firms with big corporate clients and your common or garden high street solicitor. Also high-minded “third sector” law jobs don’t tend to pay well.

    So, to earn big money as a newly minted lawyer you need to be willing to work hideously long hours to help the City do business. Or you can choose a far less stressful and lower paid role helping old ladies with wills, or in a charity that campaigns for fluffy kittens.

    Guess where young female law grads are more likely to apply?

  8. @Steve “(if this were the case why, all other things being equal, would you ever hire men?) ”

    Careful, Steve, that sort of logical thinking won’t get you anywhere.

    For the basic premise that this is all down to ‘sexism’ to be correct, lots of employers must by definition be passing over the most suitable employees for a job in favour of less suitable ones, purely because the latter have bollocks and the former don’t.

    That does not pass the smell test.

  9. By the way, folks, the comments seem to accept double speech marks rather than singles. Probably the most useful thing I’ve ever said on here.

  10. BTW – that’s assuming we’re even comparing law jobs. A high percentage of law grads don’t become solicitors or barristers. Competition for traineeships is brutal. Getting a law degree is the easy part.

  11. > Ian B , agreed what would the mechanism be.

    Also if example of women being paid less than men can be found, then is that beacause men bargain harder at interview. Is that a gender difference or an across personality difference applicable to both.

  12. The survey seems to deal with pay on day one of your first job after graduating, so it doesn’t look like babies or negotiating have much to do with it. FWIW, I have never known of any law firm paying different amounts to different trainees once selected. The differences between equally experienced come later. But as said above, there is a huge variation between City firms and others. And the City firms take on large numbers, so I guess they have a significant effect on the overall statistics. Whether there is prejudice in selection and/or female self-selection into the less commercial areas I don’t know. I’d speculate a bit of both, but I have no figures.

    But it says there is some difference for doctors too. If they are talking about first jobs, isn’t that odd? I don’t really know about doctors’ pay, but why would there be any difference on graduation? By 30s and 40s, the Tim Explanation may kick in, but why would there be a difference right at the beginning?

  13. therefore in what context is it appropriate to call it discrimination if it is because men bargain harder.

    Also do women settle for less pay because they, on average, have another bread winner at home or expect to have one, and so are undercutting men in applying for the job.

  14. It’s the lack of equivalence pisses one off. Male pr0n stars earn a fraction of female pr0n stars. Especially at entry level. Hell, some of ’em even have to pay. Ever hear of the Equal Pay Commission tackling that one? Not a dickie bird.

  15. Dinero
    Also if example of women being paid less than men can be found, then is that beacause men bargain harder at interview.

    If you are talking about first jobs with big companies, bargaining doesn’t really come into it. I can assure you that right now new law graduates (for example) do not bargain with employers.

  16. It is true that some starting careers in law will pay more than others. That can be down to the discipline followed, and the nature of the firm.

    Starting salaries within the large and medium sized firms who pay more will be the same for everyone. Things might get fuzzy at the bottom end of the profession.

    So, what people looking for a problem should be after is evidence that those higher paying jobs are being disproportionately given to men. Looking at the percentages that are in university is useless. They need to look at the percentages applying for those jobs.

    If men disproportionally get the better jobs, then someone gets to ask why. Is there still a bit of the ‘old boys’ nonsense going on, are firms already making hiring decisions with materneity-fear in mind at the graduate level, or is there a difference in quality (i.e. do the better female graduates disproportionately go for the lower paid jobs.. or perhaps not continue in law at all.. meaning that the cohort of male applicants is of better quality).

    When we look at the overall picture, if there’s a gap then it’s fair to ask whether it’s because women aren’t pursuing the most financially lucrative careers in the same proportion as men. If so, why?

    There’s nothing wrong in going beyond that and looking at individual jobs to see if even women who make the same choices as men get paid less. Indeed, that’s often a more valid place to look for problems that are solvable. It’s difficult to change a cultural trend that nudges women into nursing and men into doctoring (say), but it’s easier to pick out overt discrimination within a particular profession.

  17. Luke – my friend’s wife is a young NHS doctor. She didn’t want to become a GP, and didn’t like working in a hospital. She took a job in pediatrics – some sort of regional child protection role rather than what I as a layman would think of as a “normal” doctoring position. I was shocked to find out she’s only on 35k pa.

    She’s a lovely, gentle, woman, who chose her own type of job satisfaction over better paid alternatives. I’m guessing a lot of female doctors are in the same mould. Or maybe the NHS is sexist.

  18. I am a bit surprised that female law graduates get less than their male counterparts. I’d have thought females would earn more than males, on average, when it comes to working in Starbucks. Talk about lawyers is irrelevant, because people with law degrees don’t normally become lawyers – it’s a serious self-inflicted handicap to overcome.

  19. Steve, I can see that kind of thing happening, BUT is that job in pediatrics her very first paid medical job ever?

    I’m vague, but don’t they all start off as housemen for a year or two? That’s why I wondered if the finding might be have some significance in medicine. For example, you say she didn’t like working in a hospitals – doesn’t that mean she had worked in one, so the pediatrics job wasn’t her first medical job?

  20. By the way, as usual we’re fighting on the wrong ground again, anyway.

    My business, my money, I should be able to employ who I want for what I want. If they don’t like it, they can look elsewhere. It’s what I did when I was young and it’s how the (real) world works.

    Public money is a different matter, admittedly.

  21. Luke – It’s not her first job as a doctor, she’s been qualified for a handful of years, used to work in a hospital but found it stressful.

  22. My business, my money, I should be able to employ who I want for what I want.

    You won’t get anywhere with that one. Most people believe that labour has intrinsic value that should be consequently rewarded. Blame Adam Smith.

  23. Sorry, forgot this bit: Smith’s major crime (in this regard) against economics wasn’t so much just the labour theory of value, but the whole thing about the division of labour increasing value (and thus productivity), as with that damned pin factory example he stole from the Encyclopede. Consequently, assigning the value to the assignment between jobs of commodity labour; i.e. the jobs contain the value, rather than the intrinsic skills and merits of the individual workers, who are simply an homogenous commodified mass who are slotted into the jobs.

    The tragedy of Smith isn’t that he was such a bad economist, it is that he was such an influential economist.

  24. Dave – the myth of lawyers being well off is remarkably resilient. The related myth that university is a sure route to middle class prosperity is likely to die a painful death in the coming years.

  25. Snippet from report doesn’t seem to tie up with Guardian article saying that it’s earnings on starting work. Seem more like earnings when survey taken.

    From page 50 – “The largest
    gender difference by subject is apparent for law graduates. Women who studied for a law
    degree and were in full-time employment at the date of the survey have annual earnings of
    just over £20,000, compared with their male counterparts earning on average more than
    £28,000 per annum.”

  26. As has been noted above, my experience is that men are more fixated on working for corporate law firms than women. But what is really interesting is that notwithstanding this, corporate law firms currently hire more female grads than male – that’s certainly been the experience of my firm and my friends at other firms. Reconciling this suggests that this average salary disparity is actually a reflection of the vastly greater number of female law grads than male. This is actually a story about the education system failing men.

  27. (if this were the case why, all other things being equal, would you ever hire men?)

    Well, you wouldn’t. And thus the pay gap as we understand it would cease to exist. Because if women are cheaper and just as productive then they must be more in demand, which will increase their value up and until they are no longer cheaper.

    So unless there is a worldwide cartel-style conspiracy* to pay all women less for the same work, we must deal with the possibility that women are not, or are not seen as, equally productive as their male colleagues.

    *oh, yes, certain feminists will claim that “there is, and it’s called the patriarchy.” Once you’ve finished laughing you can ask them if these are the same men who are always ‘causing war’ (or indeed banking crises) with their ‘pointless competition’. Because it can’t be both.

  28. inter alia, surely it also depends on flexibility &c. Remuneration for professional jobs usually rests on, ceteris paribus

    – the skills/qualifications required
    – the ease of the job/job lifestyle

    with competition for the job being a third option but one influenced by those two.

    ergo it takes a lot of qualifications to be an academic – as my wife is – but the lifestyle and benefits a sufficiently attractive enough that it is not hugely well-paid (though if you live somewhere cheap it is). In the states, where the life of an academic is more cutthroat and the job security (one of the benefits here) is far less it’s much better paid.

    On the other hand, working in the most well-paid financial services is a pretty sh*te lifestyle – v long hours, v stressful – and so it’s damn well remunerated or no one would do it.

    So it’s quite possible that whilst the qualifications held by men/women are the same, the willingness to put up with a lot of nastiness (eg no social life, long hours, stress) in return for money and promotion isn’t. Which would account for this.

  29. @SBML: its actually people who graduated in 2009 or 2010, and were employed (but not necessarily in their degree field) at the time of the survey in 2011/12, so anywhere from 1 to 3 years after graduation. I would hazard a guess that a significantly more female law graduates are either no longer working in law or have taken lesser paid roles in the legal profession. Such a survey is not saying “two identical people are being paid differently for the same job” but that “two identically qualified people are taking significantly different career paths, by personal choice”.

    The lie is given by the medical graduate income stats – a couple of K difference between the sexes. As medical careers in the UK are 99.9% NHS based there is no way that 2 doctors, male and female, doing the same job would not be paid the same. The pay structure is not open to individual whim of the employer. So the only reason for the discrepancy must be differing career choices for men and women, even at such a early stage of their career. As shown anecdotally by Steve’s friend above.

  30. Can anyone point me towards the statistics on the pay gap by age cohort?

    I mentioned to the other half that I’d read those findings somewhere and she wanted to inspect the data herself

  31. Adam Smith did NOT advocate the Labour Theory of value. He specifically wrote that while this might have applied to very primitive societies, in more advanced ones price was what people are prepared to pay.

  32. oh, yes, certain feminists will claim that -there is, and it-s called the patriarchy.- Once you-ve finished laughing you can ask them if these are the same men who are always -causing war- (or indeed banking crises) with their -pointless competition-. Because it can-t be both.

    Pantomime cries of -oh yes it can-. Solidarity against outsiders and competition amongst insiders are not well correlated – standard or inverse.

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