The Gender Gap for College-Educated Computer Science Workers

Addressing the shortage of women in STEM-related fields such as computer science is not enough to close the gender gap in both representation and pay: Treating women more like men, especially on payday, is more important than representation alone, according to research led by Sharon Sassler, professor of sociology and director of undergraduate studies at the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

Professor Sasser and her colleagues examine the field of computer science and how women who major in and work in the field fare. Though women’s representation in STEM fields generally has increased in recent decades, their presence in the workforce – which accounts for about half the jobs in STEM fields – remains low, and the gender wage gap in computer science persists.

In a study of data over a recent 10-year period, women employed in computer science jobs earned about 86.6 cents for every dollar that men earned. When the researchers controlled for age, degree field, and level of attainment, occupation, and race, the wage gap narrowed by about 34 percent, to 91 cents for every dollar a man makes. However, the gender wage gap remained.

The wage gap could be due, in part, to the types of jobs women working in computer science hold. Women are more likely than men to work as computing and information science managers or as computer analysts, while more men work as software developers or network architects – jobs with among the highest average wages, contributing to the pay disparity. However, differences in occupations accounted for only about a third of the gender wage gap, the researchers found.

The researchers close by challenging the narrative that women’s career opportunities are always detrimentally affected by family roles. Instead, they propose that addressing underrepresentation in STEM fields and gender pay disparities requires tackling the ways discrimination plays out in the contemporary labor force among professional workers. Most of the gender wage gap, they write, results from women receiving different returns on their characteristics – as partners, parents, and workers.

The full study, “Factors Shaping the Gender Wage Gap Among College-Educated Computer Science Workers,” was published on PLOS ONE. It may be accessed here. Pamela Meyerhofe, who holds two graduate degrees from Cornell and is now an economist at the Federal Trade Commission, co-authored the study.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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