The gender pay gap: why more female managers does not necessarily equate to higher earnings for women

An illustration of the gender pay gap, which a new study has assessed in relation to female managers
© iStock/tudmeak

How is the gender pay gap affected by the share of female managers in an organisation? A new paper assesses why more women in management roles does not equate to higher female earnings.

The paper, titled “Are female managers agents of change or cogs in the machine?”, in the European Sociological Review indicates that over recent past decades there has been a steady increase in women’s representation in all levels of management. However, this has not corresponded to a reduction in the gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap

The researchers used data from nine European countries in sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, higher education, transportation, financial services, and telecommunication.
There was considerable variation of inequality between women’s and men’s earnings across departments and organisations in these sectors.

However, the following trends were identified:

  • Women in the sample earn on average 7% less than men, regardless of the gender of their direct supervisor and regardless of the share of female managers in the organization;
  • The gender pay gap (Which is adjusted for sector, country, educational attainment, job status and other organizational or individual characteristics, only for working hours) is around €104 per month for a forty hour working week.

Why does more female managers not equate to equal pay?

According to the researchers, there are reasons that female managers may lack the power or motivation to enhance other womens’ earnings, such as that female managers may often be stuck at lower levels of management where they do not have enough power to substantially affect the careers of employees.

The paper’s lead author, Margriet van Hek, commented: “There are very good reasons to believe women should benefit from having a female manager, so we were surprised to find that this is not the case. I believe the next step is to dig deeper into the mechanisms of how this occurs.”

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