The Gender Gap Series: Where The Gender Pay Gap Is Widest : The Indicator from Planet Money A report from Glassdoor reveals which industries have the starkest gender pay gaps.

The Gender Gap Series: Where The Gender Pay Gap Is Widest

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Hey everybody. THE INDICATOR is taking a week off, and we will be back with all new original episodes starting a week from today. But for this week, we are going to be revisiting some of our favorite stories about one topic, the gender gap in the economy. Why do women earn less and pay more for goods and services than men do?


Right? That's an excellent question, Cardiff. This is actually true on both counts. Here at THE INDICATOR, we have talked about these two topics a lot over the last year. And we've observed how they affect not just women on an individual level, but the whole global economy.

GARCIA: So this week, we are combining the best of those episodes into a five-day series called The Gender Gap.

VANEK SMITH: Because they wouldn't let me call it Lady Week.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

VANEK SMITH: They wouldn't.

GARCIA: I didn't get a chance to veto that.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

GARCIA: And to start us off, we are replaying an episode that we originally reported back in April of this year.



GARCIA: And I'm Cardiff Garcia. We've talked a lot on this show about the gender pay gap. That is the difference in the pay that women get versus the pay that men get.

VANEK SMITH: And the number you'll often hear quoted is 20%, as in women get paid about 20% less than men do.

GARCIA: But economists will also note that not all of that 20% is the result of straightforward discrimination, or at least not discrimination alone.

VANEK SMITH: For instance, women will often take some time off for child care. That will affect their pay, but it isn't discrimination.

GARCIA: Another factor in women getting paid less - job choice.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah. In general, women tend to choose less-lucrative fields. For instance, there are a lot more women than men in the fields of home health care worker and schoolteacher. And those are fields that tend to have relatively lower pay.

GARCIA: Conversely, there are a lot more men than women working in the tech industry and in engineering, fields where the pay tends to be higher.

VANEK SMITH: Now, the reasons that women and men are choosing these fields has been the subject of a lot of discussion, as has the reason that these fields tend to pay more or less respectively. But whatever the reason, this is happening.

GARCIA: Plus, we should add that it's not always easy to separate the discrimination from some of these trends. For example, when more women join a field, there is some evidence that sometimes that has the effect of holding down pay.

VANEK SMITH: This is the worst.

GARCIA: Yeah, no, it really is.

VANEK SMITH: The worst.

GARCIA: And there's also discrimination involved in the choices that people make when men and women tend to choose different fields. So for example, it's true that men and women tend to choose different fields. But part of the reason might be that women know they'll be treated unfairly if they go into certain occupations.

But this is all part of the reason that we got so excited about this new study from Glassdoor. See, this study looks at something different. It compares the salaries of men and women within certain fields once those choices have been made, and then it compares those salaries.

VANEK SMITH: Today on the show, jobs and the gender pay gap. Which jobs have the smallest disparity in pay between men and women, and which have the biggest?


VANEK SMITH: Glassdoor Economic Research just put out a study looking at the gender pay gap in different fields. It's called the "Progress On The Gender Pay Gap: 2019." And today, we're talking to Glassdoor's chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain. So, Andrew, for this study, you guys looked at the gender pay gap and how big the gap is across different industries.

ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN: Industry by industry, where are the biggest pay gaps? OK, so when I say pay gap, I'm talking about, like, after I've accounted for what jobs people work in, their education experience. So I'm making, like, an apples-to-apples comparison.


CHAMBERLAIN: This is what I call the adjusted pay gap, OK?


CHAMBERLAIN: So industries with the biggest pay gap - media came out on top.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, my God. Really?



CHAMBERLAIN: ...Sorry to break it to you, Stacey.

VANEK SMITH: Well, why? Why?

CHAMBERLAIN: Media, though, which may make you feel better, doesn't just include broadcast or radio. It includes, like, Hollywood. So there's companies like NBCUniversal.


CHAMBERLAIN: But there's also Walt Disney. There's also Viacom, Gannett. All of these other things are counted as media, including some video game companies, like Electronic Arts. That's technically considered media.

VANEK SMITH: So what is the pay gap for media?

CHAMBERLAIN: Six-point-four percent was the pay gap once you do apples-to-apples comparison. So what is going on with media? It's been where the #MeToo movement really gained momentum. So it's an industry that is like the old economy in some ways, where it doesn't pay very much attention to formal credentials. It's more about who you know rather than what you know in some cases.

VANEK SMITH: OK. What is the second-worst?

CHAMBERLAIN: Second-worst is the retail sector. And then they're followed by construction, repair, maintenance, and then oil, gas and utilities. So it's kind of a mixture here. So in retail, of course, you know, it's a very low-paying job. This is, like, disproportionately women working in many of these positions.

So what I believe is happening in those fields is, similar to media, there's not a lot of attention paid to formal academic credentials. And these are - they have many jobs that are male-dominated. And the fact is, is if you have mostly men in upper management or leadership positions, they don't create institutions that let women get ahead often.

VANEK SMITH: So let's go maybe to the other end of the scale. What is the industry with the smallest pay gap?

CHAMBERLAIN: The industry with the smallest pay gap was biotech and pharmaceuticals. The pay gap was only 2.2% when we compared similar men and women - so almost gone. Part of it is they have a relatively young workforce, right? Many of these are...


CHAMBERLAIN: ...Scientific folks coming out of Ph.D. programs. It's very, like, credential-based. Like, there's lots of Ph.D. chemists and biologists in that field.

And also, you know, that field - that really does, like, have a decent work-life balance in many of the big biotech and pharma companies. And I think that attracts more women to that field. So as women are moving more into STEM fields, they're being pushed into leadership roles in biotech and pharma. So I think that's actually contributing to the small pay gap there.

VANEK SMITH: What is the job with the - what is - sorry - the industry with the second-smallest pay gap?

CHAMBERLAIN: Second-smallest was education. So this includes big universities, so both administrators and faculty. And what we found there is, in education, only a 2.4% pay gap. You know, that's a field where, first of all, pay is quite transparent at many big public universities.

VANEK SMITH: That's true, yeah.

CHAMBERLAIN: There's no hiding what you earn if you work at a big state school. It's often published publicly. And I believe that helps crush the gap down because people know what people are earning, and they negotiate.

VANEK SMITH: And what about the third-smallest?

CHAMBERLAIN: The third-smallest is aerospace and defense. OK, so who is in aerospace defense? That's like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon. These are these huge - often contractors.

VANEK SMITH: What was the biggest surprise for you in this study?

CHAMBERLAIN: Well, I think the biggest surprise to me is how much of a role occupation plays and how little of a role that experience and education play. I think a common misperception about the pay gap is that it's all just about education and experience or that women are just voluntarily choosing low-paying jobs. I think those are the most common misperceptions. And what we found in this study is that education experience explained very little of the pay gap - like, 8% or something like that - and occupational differences explained, like, 56% of the overall pay gap.

I think what's important to recognize there is that women and men don't randomly sort into occupations, partly because of influences early on - what kind of jobs get taught to people as being a male job or a female job. And some jobs, frankly, just aren't friendly to family lifestyles. It's very hard to get the flexibility you need, you know, to balance a family with a job in - especially in C-suite positions and in many fast-growing sectors.

And no question, like, the single best remedy for a pay gap is a strong labor market. I mean, we've definitely seen the pay gap overall shrinking in recent years. And I think that that's just letting the economy burn hard, and it's putting workers in the driver's seat. And so I think that's what's going on in those fields.

VANEK SMITH: This has been really fantastic. Thank you.

CHAMBERLAIN: Yeah, of course.


VANEK SMITH: Since we originally aired this episode, the gender pay gap has been getting a lot of attention. Politicians, including Senator Kamala Harris, are campaigning on the issue.

GARCIA: Here in the U.S., members of the women's national soccer team, who just won the World Cup, are actually suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay.

VANEK SMITH: In fact, we just did an episode on that a few weeks ago. You can check it out online.

This updated episode of THE INDICATOR was produced by Rachel Cohn. The original was produced by Constanza Gallardo and edited by Paddy Hirsch. Our current intern and fact-checker is Emily Lang. And THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.


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