Good Question: Why Do Women Make Less Than Men?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

— For nearly a century, researchers have found that equal pay for equal work isn’t happening for men and women in the United States.

A study by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota found that women earn 76 cents for every dollar a man makes.

So, why don’t women make as much as men?

“That’s an important question,” said Lee Roper-Batker, President of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

She said the first factor is that women work disproportionately in lower-paying fields. It’s called job clustering.

“It’s a huge issue that I think starts in grade school. When we’re talking to students about what kind of career choices they want to go in, when we’re calling on boys more in science than girls,” she said.

According to the study, 52 percent of Minnesota’s working women are in service, sales and office jobs. In those fields, the median earnings for a full-time woman range from $24,697 to $33,744. That compares to 30 percent of working men in those fields.

Research has found that men tend to work in more dirty, dangerous and financially risky jobs and those come with higher rewards.

“The other reason is the mommy track. Women who choose to stay home and raise kids while their young: we don’t have enough on and off ramps for them, so their pay can suffer as a result,” said Roper-Batker.

Researchers have designed studies where they factor in the choice of job, experience, the mommy track. “Every time you put a factor in, the gap closes, but it doesn’t go away,” said Dr. Teresa Rothausen, a professor at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business.

“If you give someone the exact same resume, but you put a woman’s name or a man’s name on and say how much is this person worth or how much would you pay this person, and you randomize that,” she said, “they’ll say they’re gonna pay the man more.”

A new study published in Health Affairs looked at hires right out of medical school, hires that shouldn’t have any of the influences or factors that affect women later in their careers. But female heart surgeons were paid $27,000 dollars less than men. Female pulmonary disease specialists earn $44,000 less than men.

“Discrimination is less overt than it used to be, but it’s still really part of how we’re socialized,” said Debra Fitzpatrick, a researcher at the University of Minnesota.

Rothausen echoed that thought. Hiring managers have an “image of what a strong powerful mover and shaker is,” she said, “and it might not be as feminine as it is masculine.”

She noted that there are several discriminating factors that subconsciously affect pay rates.

“CEOs who are taller get paid more than CEOs who are shorter. I don’t see this as hugely different from that; it’s not just about gender,” said Rothausen.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Norge

    Many times my comments here take a conservative bent, but as a conservative i support equal pay for equal work, and firmly believe that those who renege on the pact with their workforce should be jailed….on the first offence, let me have them on the second. That said tho, while many focus on the equal pay part the equal work part comes into play also. Been part of several organizations where there were ‘equal pay’ issues but the parties in questions were not doing the work, they never carried their share of the load and all around them had to work harder to make up for their short-comings….but heaven forbid you should say anything or the PC police (ie;lawyers) would be all over you. Too bad equal rights and equal pay have nothing to do with ‘equal work’ and until the concept becomes ‘reality-based’ this whole arguement is going to continue to be farcical, which is a detrement to those who are really not getting what they deserve…whether that be more money…or in some cases a better co-worker who really earns their money.

  • Mike

    As a male who has worked for fourty years, I have made the same amount of money as my co-workers if I was union represented. Otherwise pay has never been equal with any co-worker, it has always been based on merit. When I was young and working in kitchens cooking, the woman who worked at any one of the jobs I held, ALWAYS made substantially more money. As a side, I also was discriminated against working at the Fanny Farmer candy store when I put in an application I was told that, “we don’t have positions for male sale representatives.” I think the statistics on women making less money as their male counterparts is strangely misrepresented in my world, where some females make more and others less.

  • Paul Clements

    This is another of those phony feminist myths. They’d like you to believe that all disparity in wages is due to discrimination against women. The truth is any disparities are most likely caused by women’s choices. They CHOOSE to work the menial, low paying jobs in retail sales, they CHOOSE to take the less strenuous jobs, they CHOOSE to work in safe, comfortable surroundings, leaving the dangerous, unpleasant jobs(which pay more) to men. They CHOOSE the less demanding college courses, they CHOOSE not to seek advanced degrees, they CHOOSE not to specialize, or pursue dual proficiencies. They CHOOSE jobs that don’t require travel, and CHOOSE not to work the overtime which drives up men’s pay. They CHOOSE to leave the workforce to have and raise children, and take more time off from the job when they are working.
    If, in fact, a company could hire a woman to work for less than a man, don’t you thing the workforce would be 95% female?

    • Shelley

      How do you explain the medical school graduates then? Both fresh out of medical school, but one earning substantially less.

      In some cases it’s a choice but not always. When a spouse travels and leaves the other at home to take care of home, kids, etc, it’s almost a forced choice. Someone has to be be there for the kids.

      • thepatriotdad


        You have it in reverse. The average length of a female doctor’s career is 12 years. The average overall income for males is higher because male doctors at 30+ years in their career are going to make more than a female doctor in her 12th year before quiting to raise children. The AMA has been addressing this situation. Fresh out of med school females make more because 50/50 quotas must be met. Fresh out of med school, males with better scores make less and get fewer job offers than females.

        About 6 years ago Harvard Law School did a poll on the graduats of the past 35 years. They found a similar 12 year average female career length. Yet, Harvard provides additional financial incentives to females and females, are finding jobs faster and easier because of the quotas.

        The employers of these women who use up large portions of our nations resources then go home after less time than it takes to return society’s investment is a net loss for society. It is simple economics. Then we bump men out of the jobs to maintain quotas. This dramatically increases the costs of these services. The OJT for the women is a worse investment for a woman with a 12 year average career span compared to a 30+ year career span for men.

        Dr. Warren Farrell has written and documented .the multiple lives of this myth that women earn less for the same. As I am known to repeatedly say, BS will always just be BS.

        Children and stay at home parenting is a choice and you must take personal responsibility and not tax all of the rest of us for luxuries you would deny men or other families. That is an extremely short sighted view that is more than Narcissistic and bordering on Sociopathic.

        Before you spout myth, research some place other than the fiction from N.O.W. or your local women’s studies prof.. Feminist ideology is based on myth, emotionally charged myth, but myth none the less.


      • George McCasland

        What is frequently left out of these so called summaries is that the men work an average of 10% more hours then the women for what they earn, and are willing to driver 3X further to get to a job. They will take a lower paying position for the same job that is closer to their homes, whereas men are willing to go the extra mile to reach the better paying jobs. The whole story is never told behind these claims. Instead of reading the sanitized summary, one needs to look at the data being analyzed.

    • Denise

      Thing or think? “If, in fact, a company could hire a woman to work for less than a man, don’t you thing the workforce would be 95% female?” I guess you CHOOSE to write the wrong word and not check your spelling.

  • As jack said

    As it was said in as Good As it Gets, ” I take a man and I take away reason and accountability.” When women are held to the same standard as men, and they (women) want to be held to that standard in the work place, then they will earn the pay they deserve.

  • Todd

    Woman have made great strives over the last 100 years. To me the real issue is why are there more woman graduating from college than men? Is it because our schools have become so feminized that it forgets the unique needs of our boys? In recent years the workforce has chosen to have “take your daughters to work day” while forgetting that there are boys left on the sidelines who are not getting the opportunity to explore work. Why are Universitiies financing a womans studies chair,but not do the same for men? This recession has hit men the hardest with many men being unable to obtain other jobs. Why is this? I believe the answer lies with the years of propaganda perpetuated by the major Universities trying to drum more support for their woman’s studies programs with the notion that woman make less than men. Both sexes are valuable workers and both are needed to run this economy. But I believe we need to focus on a generation of boys who have been pushed aside because we have become so obsessed by woman’s issues.

    • Kaye

      Ignoring syntax and spelling errors, I’ll try to answer your question, Todd.

      All studies were men’s studies for thousands of years. That’s why we have Women’s Studies programs.

      All professions have been mens’ professions until recent history (in the U.S.). That’s why “take your daughter to work day” makes sense.

      Please don’t forget that in many sub-segments of the population, there are absoultely NOT more women graduating from college than men.

      I hope we can focus on the generation of boys by giving them the understanding that they need a broader variety of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that include feminine and masculine ways of knowing and working. Then there will be more men graduating from college.

      • Todd

        I agree with what you wrote. Instead of being gender specific we need to encourage both boys and girls to reach their potential. in the educational and occuapational whelm. We can do this with involving mentors, career fairs, take your child to work day. Again, our economy depends on both men and woman fuctioning at their highest level.

  • eanderson74

    Even if women chose to work at a job that pays less than men, it doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to be paid as much. To imply that the inequality pay between men and women is a myth reeks of sexism IMO. I think it is even more disgusting that the state Republicans would think the notion is outdated and cost too much. Well about all the government subsidies that Michele Bachmann gets for not using her land to farm?

  • O Rly

    why hire a man when you can hire a women and pay them less? thats why i think this is all creative research looking for data that surports your points and ignoring the contrary

    However Equal work shoudl mean Equal pay

  • Rob Wagner

    Great comment Paul!!!

  • AG

    The first statistic posted here is incredibly misleading. I’ve seen one almost identical to it before, I’m guessing that’s where the Humphrey Institute got the data. I believe it comes from the Census Bureau (could be wrong, but I know it’s some government body), and the way it’s calculated has nothing to do with equal pay for equal work. All they do is take the gross annual income for each gender and divide it by the number of full time workers for each gender. While there may be a disparity and that could be a problem, it does NOT mean that equal work does not get equal pay. The only thing in this whole article that supports the first statement is the last example of the female doctors making less, though I would like to see how they collected that data as well

  • SmartyPants

    Pay for non union people is largely based on results. Men are more aggressive and more likely to toot their own horn, where women will say the ‘team’ was the reason for success. Men are also more likely, because they are more aggressive, to ask or demand more money. Women are more likely to settle for modest or no increase in pay or responsibility. Again, not all men are more aggressive and not all women are less aggressive, but when you add it all up, it yields higher pay for men.

  • FedUp

    Male coworkers at mt workplace get promoted every 3 years. I do as much or more work and after 4 years, they are reneging on promoting me. Because of my developments, we met operating income goals. Where is the equality there? I have an engineering degree from an Ivy League school, so I did take risks and challenging courses.

  • Patrick Henry

    The reason why men get paid more than women is the fact that Men go to war and women don’t. Men are the warriors and protectors that gets drafted to war when it arises. Women don’t need to worry about this.

    If your talking about equal rights and equality for all in the workforce, allow women to be part of the military draft at times of war.

  • Lin

    I am a former machinst,and a good one,Back in the 80s I worked for a big name company here in mn,being a female I took a lower position one that allowed females to do the work,however when they needed me on a machine they only paid me 6.50 compared to 13.00.for the men.When a fulltime position opened up they gave the machinist job to the janitor and I quote here”because he has a family to support” well I did too.I quit and have never went back to being a machinist.Now for all you women out there,the republicans want to take away any strides that women have made,so if you want to be thrown back in time keep voting for them.As far as I am concerned it is them against women unless of course you happen to be rich then the republicans will give you want.They have made that abundantly clear on both the state and federal level.

  • Kevin

    Because they are too busy getting me a beer….

  • Stir the pot

    I have a question for WCCO, who makes more, Amelia or Frank?

  • don

    I looked at the site references for the doctors and no attempt was made to relate class standings , the prestige of the medical school, or the place the doctor did the residency. All are big factors in doctors pay. I do want to thank wcco for at least telling us how the differences are calculated. In most cases s the difference is just noted and it is never explained how the number is calcualated and i have seen several different methods used.

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  • Courteney

    I believe in equal work for equal pay. However, I believe more women make less money then men because women are usually the ones who leave work early to pick up the kids, or stay home when the kids are sick, or take maternity leave, or even leave the workforce for a couple years…..etc.

    I believe that the people who are there doing the work, working the extra hours, getting the results should be the ones paid for it.

  • hanna

    way to completely skip over the sexism issues, jason.

  • Todd

    There is more to life than how much a person makes.

  • George McCasland

    What is frequently left out of these so called summaries is that the men work an average of 10% more hours then the women for what they earn, and are willing to driver 3X further to get to a job. They will take a lower paying position for the same job that is closer to their homes, whereas men are willing to go the extra mile to reach the better paying jobs. The whole story is never told behind these claims.

  • Zingeress

    When I applied at General Motors, I was told I was too feminine. When I got the job as a dispatcher for General Electric, I was told, normally they hire a man for the job, but the need to reduce the pay, so they are hiring a female. When I sat in a room of all male, equal co-workers, everyone decided to call out for lunch. They then turned to me and said “You need to writer the orders down and call them in”. etc..etc..etc..get the picture.

  • Andreas Moser

    Here is the REAL reason why women earn less than men: They have different expectations in life, and the female preference for rich men forces men to earn more.

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