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Working in jobs that men tend not to fill can pay off for women, a new study finds.
Researchers from the universities of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Lakehead in Canada found that a pay gap does exist worldwide between men and women who share the same occupations. However, when men and women keep to different trades and professions, they are more likely they are to earn equal wages.
When few men work in an occupation, women have more chances to get to the top and earn more, said the researchers, Robert Blackburn and Girts Racko of Cambridge and Jennifer Jarman of Lakehead, in explaining their results. However, when more-similar numbers of men and women work in a field, men tend to dominate the high-paying jobs.
"Higher overall segregation tends to reduce male advantage and improve the position of women," the researchers wrote in their paper. "The greater the degree of overall segregation, the less the possibility exists for discrimination against women, and so there is more scope for women to develop progressive careers. "
The researchers point to one example in the nursing field, which women strongly dominate. In that field, "men disproportionately fill the senior positions ... but the fewer the number of male nurses, the more the senior positions must be filled by women," the researchers wrote.
Among the 20 countries examined, pay was closest to equal in Slovenia, where women on average earn slightly more than men, and in Mexico, Brazil, Sweden and Hungary, where women earn almost as much as men on average. The researchers found that in these countries, men and women work in different occupations to a greater extent than in many of the other countries analyzed.
The study shows that in other countries, such as Japan, the Czech Republic, Austria and the Netherlands, women are more likely to work in the same occupations as men. There, the discrepancy in pay is higher than average. The United States ranked sixth best in approaching equal pay between men and women.
Researchers said the most important finding is that, at least for these industrially developed countries, overall segregation and the vertical pay gap are inversely related.
"The higher the overall segregation, the lower the advantage to men," the researchers wrote. "This is directly contrary to popular assumptions."
The study examined statistics for each country on the proportion of women and men in each occupation, and on the overall average gap in pay. It was recently published in the journal Sociology.