I recently read an article from Daniel Tunkelang, Head of Query Understanding at LinkedIn that asks us to consider if engineering-driven cultures are sexist? This is a well structured, multi-faceted piece, and you can read it here.

With that said, one takeaway from Tunkelang that really stood out to me was the role that occupational segregation plays in driving down women’s wages. Quoting from Wikipedia:

Occupational segregation refers to the way that some jobs (such as truck driver) are dominated by men, and other jobs (such as child care worker) are dominated by women.

The interesting thing about occupational segregation is that there is nothing inherently sexist about it. Credit to the daily beast article here for these lists of the highest and lowest paying jobs (and their gender makeup):

Highest and Lowest Paying Jobs

As you can see, men make up the majority in 9 of the 10 highest paying professions and women make up the majority in 9 of the 10 lowest paying professions (exceptions highlighted in yellow).

…And a recent study from the Association of University Women (AAUW) found the following:

…women working full time or multiple jobs one year after college graduation earned, other things being equal, 6.6  percent less than their male peers did. This estimate controls for differences in graduates’ occupation, economic sector, hours worked, employment status (having multiple jobs as opposed to one full-time job), months unemployed since graduation, grade point average, undergraduate major, kind of institution attended, age, geographical region, and marital status.

You can read the full study here. To be fair, 6.6% is still a significant pay gap, but it isn’t the 23% that is often widely cited in the mainstream media.

…Okay, so my question for readers today is this. Assuming for the sake of argument that STEM skills (primarily held by men) are in fact more rare than people skills (more often possessed by women) in the marketplace – and thus more valuable – what role should the private sector be playing in addressing the broader societal and institutional factors that cause this occupational segregation?

By the time someone is in their 20s and has entered the workforce, their educational pedigree (and brand) is largely defined as it concerns what sorts of careers they will be able to pursue. There are outliers of course, but rarely do we see, say, a Human Resources Manager make a switch into Computer Programming. In this respect, the heavy lifting as it concerns re-defining the role that gender plays in shaping career aspirations seemingly needs to be taking place before young people enter the workforce.

Conversely… I would submit that the attractiveness of a career path is on some level shaped by the perceived culture and lifestyle perks of the population within it. In this respect, companies can take steps to make both male and female heavy work environments feel more welcoming and inclusive for the minority gender in either situation.

…Or maybe I have this wrong?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.