Six of the 10 Lowest-Paying College Majors are Female-Dominated

A new study from Glassdoor, The Pipeline Problem: How College Majors Contribute to the Gender Pay Gap, takes a look at the role of education in the lack of pay parity between men and women. While approximately 20 percent of the pay gap is accounted for by situations in which women earn less despite having equal experience in the same role at the same company, the gap also results from differences in industry and education.

Analyzing a sample size of 46,900 resumes, Glassdoor concluded that “Many college majors that lead to high-paying roles in tech and engineering are male dominated, while majors that lead to lower-paying roles in social sciences and liberal arts tend to be female-dominated, placing men in higher-paying career pathways, on average.”

Report Findings

  • The most male-dominated majors are Mechanical Engineering (89 percent male), Civil Engineering (83 percent male), Physics (81 percent male), Computer Science and Engineering (74 percent male), and Electrical Engineering (74 percent male).
  • The most female-dominated majors are Social Work (85 percent female), Healthcare Administration (84 percent female), Anthropology (80 percent female), Nursing (80 percent female), and Human Resources (80 percent female).
  • Nine of the 10 highest paying majors we examined are male dominated. By contrast, 6 of the 10 lowest-paying majors are female dominated.

It’s important to note that, while helping women secure higher wages, higher-paying degrees can’t eradicate instances in which women are paid less for the same work and experience. Furthermore, women’s predominance in lower-paying majors is not a mere coincidence, as the report articulates; research shows that “many broader social factors also influence the gender patterns we see among college majors.”

With social norms, parental expectation and college preparation, women often feel discouraged to take their education in certain directions. Education can help decrease the gender wage gap, but we must change the way we treat women before they ever step onto a college campus in order to leverage it.

Analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data further complicates the wage gap issue by showing that wages in fields like biology and design were higher when the industries were male-dominated, and decreased as female participation increased. Similarly, programming wages increased as the field shifted from female to male predominance. These findings suggest that when lower wages don’t precede women, they can find a way follow them.

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