Media Briefings

The Gender Pay Gap Emerges During Men And Women’s Early Careers

  • Published Date: July 2008

Men and women with similar qualifications earn similar wages when they enter the
world of work. But after ten years, a ‘gender pay gap’ has emerged, with women
earning 12% less than men on average.
That is the stark conclusion of new research by Professor Alan Manning and Dr
Joanna Swaffield, published in the July 2008 issue of The Economic Journal.
They also find that even women who are not mothers (and express no desire to
become mothers) earn 8% less on average than men after ten years of their careers.
The researchers consider a number of different explanations for the growing gap:
• that women have different education and experience to men;
• that women are ‘psychologically different’ to men, in particular by being less
• and that women are less likely to ‘shop around’ for the best-paying jobs.
But although each of these explains some of the wage gap, around a third of the gap
remains unexplained.
The study finds that women have different levels of education and work experience
to men, and this accounts for almost half (44%) of the wage gap. Differences in
experience arise because women still frequently take time off work to start a family,
and women are more likely to work part-time, especially if they have young children.
What’s more, men often have done more training than women: young male schoolleavers
are much more likely to do apprenticeships than women. And women are
also less likely to choose a career which is highly paid, often preferring careers with
a better work-life balance than men.
Women and men are psychologically different. Studies have shown that women are
intrinsically less competitive than men, tend to be less self-confident and less
effective in negotiation. This might be because of intrinsic differences between men
and women or because of gender stereotyping within the education system.
Previous research has shown that higher self-confidence is related to higher
earnings. So if women are on average less confident than men, then on average we
would expect them to earn less. But the authors find that this explains at most just
under a fifth (18%) of the wage gap.
In addition, women are less likely to go further afield for work. As most women have
more family commitments than men, they have to work closer to home and therefore
have fewer jobs to choose from. But this only accounts for just over a twentieth (6%)
of the pay gap.
That leaves 32% of the pay gap unexplained. Some of this gap could be due to
gender discrimination.
The authors argue that ‘equal pay audits’ could allow women to see which
companies treat women fairly, allowing women to choose to work for these firms:
‘If statistics were published on the position of women within firms, this would
bring the position out into the open and we would expect women themselves
to gravitate to firms where they appear to do better.’
Notes for editors: ‘The Gender Gap in Early Career Wage Growth’ by Alan Manning
and Joanna Swaffield is published in the July 2008 issue of The Economic Journal.
Alan Manning is at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of
Economics. Joanna Swaffield is at the University of York.
For further information: contact Joanna Swaffield on 01904 433679 (email:; or Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768 661095 (email: