A new report from PayScale, a jobs website, takes a stab at this very problem by looking at the gender gap in various occupations controlling for factors including experience, education, company size, and crucially, job title. This in part because women are more likely to work in paediatrics, while men are more likely to work in the better-paid field of surgery. A similar pattern exists for lawyers: women make 14.8% less than men, but just 4.1% less on an adjusted basis. Again, there are differences in the types of jobs taken by men and women: 8.7% of female lawyers work for non-profit outfits, compared to just 4.5% for male ones. The pay gap for all workers is 25.6% before such differences are controlled for, and 2.7% afterwards.
A paper published last year by Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, noted that the gender pay gap was especially acute in law and business, despite the fact that fresh graduates in those fields started at similar salaries. The problem, Ms Goldin notes, is that succeeding at such professions requires copious amounts of “face time”. On the other hand, pharmacists, for whom there is little penalty for working part-time, experience virtually no gender pay gap.
Another study by Ms Goldin and Lawrence Katz (also of Harvard) noted that being away from work for 18 months was associated with a 29% drop in earnings for mid-career lawyers and PhDs, and a 41% for MBAs. In effect, much of the gender pay gap can be thought of as the cost of having children.