“Female” jobs pay significantly less than “male” ones for a given level of education

As we come to the end of a week of celebrations for International Women’s Day, I thought I’d update one of my all-time-favourite (and popular) #dataisbeautiful charts. The output is no less shocking than its earlier incarnation (the December 15th entry here).

The chart shows various variables relating to 90 occupational groups in the ONS’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). The X-axis shows the average education level of individuals in each occupation, ranging from no qualifications (0) to a bachelor’s degree, equivalent, or higher (6). The Y-axis shows the median gross hourly pay in each group in 2021. Each bubble size indicates the number of jobs in each occupation in 2021. Finally, the bubble colour shows the percentage of all jobs that were filled by females vs. males.

There are two important patterns that emerge. First, as you would expect, the higher the level of education in each occupational group, the higher the pay, on average.

More strikingly, however, look at the positioning of the red (female-dominated) and blue (male-dominated) occupational groups. Almost all red bubbles are (considerably) below the regression line, indicating that for a given level of education, female dominated job are paid (considerably) less than one would expect if the only variable one were to use to predict earnings was someone’s level of education.

In contrast, almost all the blue bubbles are above the regression line. In other words, in most male-dominated occupations, people’s pay is higher than you would expect if you only looked at their level of education. There are inevitably going to be other drivers of these patterns, too, but I still think it’s worth drawing attention to.

Does this mean that “female” jobs are underpaid? Are women over-qualified for the jobs they actually have? Is it, in fact, pointless to encourage more girls to get better educated? Well, those are much more complex questions, which I’d love to hear your thoughts on! [For further food for thought, on how female work is potentially undervalued, see also my blog here.]

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Tera Allas

Tera Allas

I help complex organisations make the right strategic decisions through innovative, insightful and incisive analysis and recommendations.

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