WHER Chat: Gender Wage Gap Narrows as Women Acquire Highly Sought-After Skills

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Burgandy Basulto is a Content Writer at NAWRB. She has a bachelor’s degree in both English and Philosophy, and a master’s degree in Philosophy. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves running, kickboxing, watching films, trying new restaurants she finds via Yelp, and experiencing other cultures during her travels.

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, women are making gains in the workplace as they continue to meet the demand of specific skill sets from employers by gaining more skills and earning higher levels of education. Employers in the United States are commonly pursuing workers with social skills, including the art of negotiation and persuasion, as well as fundamental skills in critical thinking and writing. Female workers who meet these requirements are rising, and these types of jobs also pay more, which is contributing to the narrowing wage gap. 

The report notes that employment in the U.S. has expanded most rapidly in jobs in which these skill sets are most valued in the last four decades. In addition to jobs that require social, fundamental and analytical (e.g., science and systems analysis) skills, jobs attaching greater importance to analytical skills, such as science, mathematics and programming, are also hiring workers at a faster pace. 

Women are making up a larger share of jobs requiring social, fundamental, and analytical skills compared to the previous decades. In 2018, of all jobs needing these skill sets, women’s share of employment was 47 percent, and increase of 4 percent since 1980. Women’s share of employment for jobs requiring social and fundamental skills is 52 percent, while their share is 47 percent for jobs needing managerial skills and 42 percent for jobs involving analytical skills.

The jobs that rely on these types of skills also pay more. “In 2018, jobs in which social skills are most important – clergy and sales managers, for example – paid a mean hourly wage of $29,” states the Pew Research Center. “In contrast, jobs relying the least on social skills – slaughterers and meat packers, for example – paid a mean hourly wage of $18, about 40% less. Likewise, jobs most in need of analytical skills – physicists and civil engineers, for example – paid $36 per hour, on average, more than double the mean hourly wage of $15 in occupations least in need of analytical skills, such as dressing room attendants and loading machine operators.”

Jobs relying more on non mechanical skills, such as the ones listed above, have wages that are growing at a faster rate than occupations that require mechanical skills. From 1980 to 2018, wage growth ranged from 24 percent to 29 percent in jobs in which social skills were most important or in which managerial and analytical skills are most important, respectively. In contrast, wages in jobs least in need of these nonmechanical skills hardly changed during this time. 

The discrepancy in wage increases between jobs requiring non mechanical skills and those in which mechanical skills are more important underscores the growing wage gap between those with at least a high school degree and those who have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Jobs in which nonmechanical skills are more valued mostly hire workers with four years of college or higher levels of education. American workers who have acquired some schooling are benefiting from this growing shift in favor of jobs that rely on more nonmechanical skills, especially women as they represent a majority of college-educated workers. 

Read the full report here.

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