Gender Pay Gap Widest Among Older Workers


Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS April 5, 2016

The gap between the earnings of men and women in similar positions has its own generational bias, according to a recent study. Among older workers who have been in the workforce for many decades, the gap is widest; younger workers are closer to parity.

Still, the study from Glassdoor Economic Research confirms that a significant gender pay gap between women and men persists in the U.S. The March analysis, Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap, is based on a data set of more than 534,000 salary reports.

The unadjusted pay gap between men and women in the U.S. is 24.1 percent, meaning women earn, on average, $0.76 for every $1 men earn. When adding statistical controls for age, education and years of experience, Glassdoor data show that the gap compresses to 19.2 percent. And, when additional controls for occupation, industry, location, year, company and job title are factored in, the pay gap in the U.S. becomes 5.4 percent, revealing the “adjusted” gender pay gap.


Source: Glassdoor Economic Research

“The gender pay gap is real,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor Inc., but it’s “important to examine the factors that help explain some of the documented differences in pay between men and women and shine a bright spotlight on the portion of the wage gap for which there seems to be no explanation.”


In the U.S., workers ages 18 to 24 face a below-average adjusted gender pay gap of 2.2 percent. By contrast, among older workers ages 55 to 64, the adjusted gender pay gap is 10.5 percent, roughly double the national average of 5.4 percent.


The adjusted gender pay gap is largest for computer programmers (28.3 percent) and is similarly high among C-suite professionals such as CEOs and CFOs (27.7 percent).


Source: Glassdoor Economic Research

There are some occupations in which the gender pay gap is reversed and women earn more than men, however, including social worker (-7.8 percent) and merchandiser (-7.6 percent).

“Women and men tend to pursue different career paths early in life and then sort into different industries and occupations, which, in large part, is due to a variety of societal expectations and traditional gender norms. This is the single largest factor we see contributing to today’s gender pay gap,” Chamberlain said.


The adjusted gender pay gap in the U.S. is largest in the health care field (7.2 percent) and far less in the restaurants, bars and food service sector (3.2 percent) and aerospace/defense (2.5 percent).


Source: Glassdoor Economic Research

Closing the Gap

The researchers found that the majority (67 percent) of the overall U.S. pay gap can be explained due to differences in worker characteristics (e.g., age, education), while 33 percent of the overall pay gap cannot be explained by any factors observable in the data.

The unexplained pay gap may be attributed to workplace bias (whether intentional or not), negotiation skill differences between men and women, and/or other unobserved worker characteristics, the study suggests.

“To help close the gender pay gap, we should focus on creating policies and programs that provide women with more access to career development and training, such as pay negotiation skills, to support them throughout their lives in any job or field they choose to enter,” said Dawn Lyon, vice president of corporate affairs of Glassdoor. “Greater transparency around pay can also help eliminate pay gaps by making it easy to identify disparities and spark conversations with employers to ensure people are paid equally for equal work. Research has shown that companies that embrace salary transparency can also improve employee satisfaction in the long run, which boosts productivity.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow me on Twitter.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect