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Why the Gender Pay Gap Could Be Worsening

Picture this: Two college students, Alex and Charlie. Both are bright, have the same interests, and are ready to embrace the world of higher education. There is only one difference. Alex is female while Charlie is male. Fast forward to graduation, and while Alex may have excelled academically, she might find herself at a financial disadvantage compared to Charlie. Why? Lucrative degrees are trending toward male dominance, potentially exacerbating the gender pay gap.

Let’s dive into this phenomenon. First, let’s clarify what “lucrative” degrees mean. These are courses of study that tend to lead to high-paying jobs post-graduation, such as engineering, finance, or computer science.

In turn, this will create a major gender pay gap in the upcoming years.

Alex / Pexels / Since lucrative degrees are becoming ‘male-dominant,’ women are not opting for them.

So, Why the Trend?

Brushing this off as a coincidence is tempting, but there might be more at play. Societal conditioning plays a role. From an early age, boys are often encouraged towards toys and activities that emphasize spatial reasoning, while girls are nudged towards those that develop empathy and communication.

Sound stereotypical? It is. But these stereotypes have a lasting impact.
Fast forward to high school, and these early life experiences might sway a male student to pick physics, while a female peer might opt for literature. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with literature.

So, it is a noble and essential field. However, it might not have the same immediate post-graduate paycheck as say, software development.

Andrea / Pexels / Reports show men are three times more likely to obtain degrees that have high demand in the job market.

The Ripple Effect on the Gender Pay Gap

The decision to a major degree does not just impact the first job. It sets the trajectory for one’s entire career. If women are underrepresented in high-paying sectors from the get-go, they might face a compounding disadvantage.

Every subsequent raise, every bonus, and every job change can be a percentage of a base that was already lower than their male counterparts.

Moreover, consider corporate leadership. If sectors with a higher male dominance (like tech or finance) also happen to wield significant economic influence, then these sectors might have a disproportionate number of male leaders. This in turn influences company cultures, hiring policies, and even pay structures.

What Can We Do About It?

Change has to start at the root. We need to rethink how we bring up our kids. From the toys we buy to the role models we highlight, it is essential to dismantle gender norms.

Karolina / Pexels / To overcome this gender pay gap, schools should actively promote STEM opportunities for girls and ensure that no one feels boxed into a field due to their gender.

But institutions of higher learning should not be let off the hook either. University outreach, scholarships for underrepresented genders in specific fields, and mentorship programs. These are all tools in the arsenal to ensure equal representation.

Lastly, employers play a role too. Instead of merely looking at degrees, there is a push towards skills-based hiring. After all, the ability to code, design, or strategize is not inherently tied to any particular degree. Some of the best talent might come from non-traditional backgrounds.

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