Women have consistently been earning less than men, even in highly developed countries,
and even in 2011. This is still true in most industries, even for women with the same qualifications as men. (For the related topic of female under-representation on corporate boards, see here.) It seems especially odd nowadays, because in many countries more women complete secondary education and do so with better results than men. For many university courses, it is not uncommon to have more female graduates and they are often the ones with better grades.
So why do women on average still earn less than men?
1. lack of comparability
Even after making adjustments for socio-economic background, chosen degrees and grades, women in the same professions earn less than their male colleagues. Many will take this as sufficient evidence for an anti-female gender bias in the distribution of income.
I however suggest that even after allowing for all of these socio-economic adjustments, we still haven’t achieved a level of comparability. Because we are missing something else. Something that might be equally important as qualifications: Expectations, specifically expectations about life.
2. different expectations in life
Based (so far only) on my own personal, professional and academic experience, it seems to me that men are more focused on a career than on most other aspects of their lives. Women however, are also interested in finding a relationship, starting a family and other aspects of their social life. Please note that I am not saying that women are less interested in pursuing a career than men, I just think that they might be less mono-focused.
3. different incentives in the mating process
This is already an obviously distorting effect in itself, but it is exacerbated by the different incentives this sets for men and women in light of the non-career choices that both make, especially the mating habits:
a) Men are looking for an attractive, caring and faithful woman. Some men appreciate an educated and independent woman, but (too) many men still don’t. Beyond the level of having a job and an income, the financial status of a woman is rather irrelevant to men.
b) Women who are looking to find a man are therefore encouraged to take care of their looks and to present themselves as lovely, sweet, etc. Beyond an average qualification and income, there is not much to be gained for a woman in the mating process by spending more hours at the office. She had rather devote this time to finding a sexy dress. (And it open to debate if this means that the man or the woman is the more shallow one of both.)
c) While women also don’t mind to find an attractive, caring and faithful man, they have an above average interest in security. This includes financial security. For most women, the financial status of their potential partner is an important factor.
d) For men, this clearly sets the incentive to work as hard and as much as they can in order to earn more and thus maintain or increase their chances with the ladies.
Because women are looking for well-off men, it is women who are subliminally forcing men to work and earn more. The gender pay gap is the women’s fault.