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The Gender Wage Gap Is Due To Sexism, Not Low Paying Industries, Researchers Say

"[The gap] does not go away once women have had the chance to demonstrate their worth to their employers."

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Pure sexism, not the fact women are more likely to work in lower paid professions, is to blame for much of the gender wage gap, a study released today by New Zealand researchers has found.

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The paper from Motu Economic and Public Policy, a not-for-profit research organisation in New Zealand, opens with a helpful "summary haiku":

Women are paid less,
but aren’t less valuable.
We blame sexism.

This study is different to most previous wage gap studies in that it tests whether men and women are paid different wages for adding the same amount of value to their employer.

Men and women were statistically indistinguishable in how much value they add to their firms, but the average woman was paid only 84 cents for every NZ$1 for the average man, the study found.

That gap was similar to that in Australia, where the gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 19% and currently sits at 16%.

New research on pay gaps in Britain suggests that, on average, women still earn 18% less per hour than men, while the gap in the United States is at around 20%, according to April figures from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The Kiwi researchers used sample data on workers' productivity from 2001 to 2011 to see how much sexism was to blame for the differences in pay between genders of New Zealand's working population.

“We found that women were over-represented in low-paying industries like food and beverage services, but this explains a mere 7% of the entire gender wage gap,” lead researcher Dr Isabelle Sin said.

The study then looked at productivity and wages of men and women in private for-profit firms where a 16% gender wage-productivity gap was found, meaning women were paid 16% less for making a contribution of the same value to their employer.

"There was a 16% pay gap for women aged 25 to 39, a 21% gap for those aged 40 to 54, and a 49% gap for older women.”

The gender wage gap increased with age and the length of time spent in the same job, the report's authors noted.

"That is, the gender wage-productivity gap does not go away once women have had the chance to demonstrate their worth to their employers,” said Dr Sin.

The gender wage-productivity gap was particularly marked in a few industries.

“The gap was over 40% in finance and insurance, telecommunications, transport equipment manufacturing, water and air transport, and electricity, gas and water, and rail.

"It’s worth noting that these are all sectors that have the potential for monopoly-created profits and have low competition."

The report concludes: "Our research suggests sexism is likely to be a major driver of the gender wage gap, but differences in willingness or ability to bargain are unlikely to play a major role."

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at

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