The Intersection

A Woman’s Worth

Yes, there are jobs that offer women man sized paychecks, but I’m not encouraged looking at mean salaries in the sciences. While we ladies recently experienced a sightly higher percentage increase than the fellas, it seems to me something still doesn’t add up:

i-82d6a1c4923a55d4e2ec217ff940f777-gender salary.png


  1. #1 dana
    May 30, 2008

    very unnappealing for a young woman considering a major. the sciences better step up, or i’m likely to step out.

  2. #2 Jim G
    May 30, 2008

    Single-number averages like these are too misleading to be of much use. Apparently, this survey neglected seniority and geographical region, and of course it lumps dissimilar jobs together as long as they fall under convenient general headings (“environmental”? what is that, anyway?).

    Also, does anyone know if “science” job salaries follow a predictable normal or lognormal distribution? Many fields don’t. For instance, lawyers’ salaries are bimodal. A select few (say 15-20%) graduates get hired as associates by top-echelon firms in NY/Chicago/SF/etc and get paid on exactly the same scale: $160,000 for first year grads. A strong peak on a salary graph. But everyone else gets paid in a wide range from $30k on up, depending on regular marketplace demand, which creates a second, flatter/wider peak on a salary graph that I think falls somewhere around $75-80k.

    The take-home lesson is that the “mean” lawyer salary falls between, yet almost no one makes it – they either earn a lot more or a lot less, and your final salary is decided more by the specific firm you work for and the lifestyle you content yourself with – much more than the type of lawyer you are or the field you work in. I infer that accountants’ and MBA/consultants’ salaries follow similar rules.

    What about scientists? Similar or different to this?

  3. #3 Wes Rolley
    May 30, 2008

    Slightly different take. Interesting story reported on GMA this morning. In countries where women are treated the most equally, the performance of young girls on tests of math and science is equal to that of young boys.

    Maybe someone should send a copy to Laurence Summers.

  4. #4 agnostic
    May 30, 2008

    Something adds up all right: females don’t contribute as much to science — something that everyone agrees on (though there is bitter debate about why). Since there is no ceiling on paychecks, the mean is going to be strongly affected by the freaks at the top, and these are overwhelmingly men — again, no one disagrees that this is true.

  5. #5 Luna_the_cat
    May 30, 2008

    …females don’t contribute as much to science — something that everyone agrees on …

    Wow, wrong on both premises in your first sentence. Some sort of record for you?

  6. #6 Beth B.
    May 30, 2008

    [i]…females don’t contribute as much to science…[/i]

    …how so?

  7. #7 Walker
    May 30, 2008

    You have to be really careful on this type of analysis. The problem is that academic salaries are not uniform across all disciplines. It is well-known fact that non-medical biology faculty (male or female) get paid crap compared to the salaries in other areas (like engineering or computer science). Biology post-docs can make less than my graduate students.

    Within the sciences women are disproportionately represented in the lower paying fields. This is a problem, but it is a different problem than the salary problem. I am not saying there is no salary problem. I am just saying that this does not convince me of anything.

  8. #8 chet snicker
    May 30, 2008

    Something adds up all right: females don’t contribute as much to science


    comport yourself as a gentleman! whatever the truth of the matter, let us render unto the fairer sex the civility which they are due as the mothers of the race.

    yours truly,
    c.v. snicker

  9. #9 Luna_the_cat
    June 3, 2008

    Ah, look. The premier “pro-science” misogynist has shown up. How….nice….to see you, Razib.

  10. #10 Stephen Berg
    June 6, 2008

    Not quite at parity yet, but getting closer. It’s an improvement at least.

    My only caveat to the interpretation of these statistics is that when women go on maternity leave, they end up staying either at the same seniority level as they were before or they drop. In this instance, the statistics become less meaningful. However, what needs to happen is that women don’t lose seniority and their mat leave needs to be counted as any other sort of leave (sabbatical, administrative, etc.) so they are protected when deciding to have children.

    Good post, and while things could be better, at least they’re not getting worse.

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