Yesterday NPR briefly discussed jobs with the smallest and largest gender pay gaps. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they showed numbers for 11 jobs in each category.
Just in case you need the reminder, the wage gender gap is the difference in what men and women in the same position earn as a wage. Self selection blah blah maternity leave blah blah blah, the gap can be exaggerated, but even the most conservative analysis still shows there is a wage gap.
The biggest gap is with insurance sales agents, with women earning 62.5% of what men earn; the smallest is for pharmacists, earning 99.6% of what men earn. Beyond that, the gap opens in the other direction, with women earning 2.6% more than men as counselors, and 3.7% more as health care technicians. The national average across all positions is 80.9%.
For paralegals and legal assistants in 2012, women earned 94.1% of what men do, putting them in a pretty good position, comparatively speaking. Female lawyers do slightly worse, at 91.9%, but still cut the national gap in half. So, pat yourselves on the backs, law firms. You’ve still got a ways to go, but you’re considerably less discriminatory than the rest of the nation.
And now for the bad news.
Looking at the trend in gaps across different fields may reveal something lawyers don’t want to hear. Generally speaking, jobs with the highest gaps were related to sales, marketing, and education, jobs where the personality of the employee is key to success. On the other end, jobs with the smallest gaps were more mechanical. Not machinist, but jobs where employees are fungible, such as data entry, pharmacy, cafeteria workers, and warehouse clerks.
For all the talk about “creative problem solving” and being “a good fit” and “personal brands” (gag), based on pay disparities it looks like legal practice is pretty rote, and all that really matters is your ability to churn out form documents and fill up your time sheets. The reason gender makes less of a difference in law is not because lawyers are so educated, or so progressive. Your gender makes less of a difference because you make less of a difference.
So, congratulations women. You’re making headway in a profession that will soon be dominated by robots (as if you don’t already think that about your coworkers). But look on the bright side, at least the fembots will get fair compensation.