Why Does The Gender Pay Gap Vary?

Women Leading Research 2019: Waverly Ding

Mar 17, 2019

SMITH BRAIN TRUST – The gender gap in earnings among science and engineering PhD graduates is 20 percent wider in academia than throughout the industry, reveals new research from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The paper, written by Maryland Smith associate professor Waverly Ding and Rudolph P. Lamone Chair and Professor in Entrepreneurship Rajshree Agarwal, compared the earnings gap between male and female PhD-holding scientists working in academia and the industry.

When women chose between a career of teaching and research in academic institutions or a career working at private, for-profit firms, they were faced with wage increases that would vary.

“Our analysis reveals this paradox,” the researchers wrote. “While a larger proportion of women S&E doctoral recipients enter academia, it is the industrial sector that pays women at a level of closer to men.”

The data was collected from 1993 to 2010 with 49,335 scientists and engineers sampled over a 17-year span.

The academic gender gap was found to be nonexistent before the seventh year of professional age, but widens in periods after the seventh year, particularly for women living with children. 

In contrast, there is no such shift in the gender pay gap among industrial scientists. 

On average, female academics earned 6.2 cents less on a dollar than their comparable male colleagues. In comparison, the earnings gap between genders for doctoral recipients working in the industry is at an average of 5.2 cents. 

“It is beyond an achievable goal for us to pinpoint in this article a clean causal explanation of the higher gender-based earnings gap in academia,” the researchers wrote.

Samples were broken down by certain factors such as marital status, the presence a full-time working spouse and living with children. There was a 2.7 percent disparity between married female academics and their industry counterparts who were penalized less. The data also suggests that doctor scientists who are women do not sacrifice more than men in dual-career families.

What’s more, the data appeared to link the wider gender gap in earnings faced by academic scientists with the rigid tenure evaluation system in academia, the researchers wrote. 

Industrial female scientists were found to start their career at about 6 percent below men, while academic scientists encounter a much smaller gender pay gap of 3 percent at the start of their career. 

The researchers said a picture had been painted of “women academic scientists [facing] considerable institutional hurdles against their goal of attaining equity in pay with men.”

“In comparison, absence of a similar, rigid tenure system, the industrial sector may have offered women doctoral scientists more flexibility in structuring their career paths, and such flexibility may have allowed them to catch up with men in earnings at a faster pace than their academic counterparts,” they wrote.

Read more: Ding, W.W., Agarwal, R., & Ohyama, A. (2018). Where is the Promised Land? Gender Gap in Earnings of Ph.D. Scientists and Engineers in Academia and Industry.

Waverly W. Ding is associate professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Research interests: High-tech entrepreneurship and strategy; knowledge transfer among universities and industrial firms; the U.S. biotech industry; labor productivity in science and technology.

Selected accomplishments: 2019-2021 Kauffman Foundation Knowledge Challenge Grant Recipient; 2018-2019 UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan Institute Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research Grant Recipient; 2017-2018 University of Virginia Batten Institute Entrepreneurship Fellow; 2009-2011 Kauffman Foundation Junior Faculty Fellowship in Entrepreneurship Research (one of five inaugural recipients selected among entrepreneurship researchers in the United States); 2008-2009 UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Schwabacher Award; 2007-2009 Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurship Research Mini-Grant; 2006 UC Berkeley Regents’ Junior Faculty Fellowship; 2002 Kauffman Foundation Emerging Scholars Initiative Dissertation Research Grant.

About this series: Maryland Smith celebrates Women Leading Research during Women’s History Month. The initiative is organized in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Other Women's History Month activities include the eighth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 5, 2019.

Other fearless ideas from:  Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  T. Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Christine Beckman  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Jessica M. Clark  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  | Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Jennifer Carson Marr  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Rachelle Sampson  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Niratcha (Grace) Tungtisanont  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  | Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang



About the Expert(s)

Waverly Ding

Waverly Ding is Associate Professor of Management & Organization at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Dr. Ding earned her MBA and Ph.D. in business from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the Smith School faculty, she was an assistant professor at Haas School of Business, the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Ding's research focuses on high-tech entrepreneurship and strategy, knowledge transfer between universities and industrial firms, and the U.S. biotech industry. She has also conducted research relating to labor force in science and technology. Her work has been published in Science, American Journal of Sociology, Management Science, Journal of Industrial Economics, and Research Policy.

Rajshree Agarwal

Rajshree Agarwal is the Rudolph P. Lamone Chair and Professor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and director of the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets. Rajshree’s research interests focus on the implications of entrepreneurship and innovation for industry and firm evolution. Her recent projects examine the micro-foundations of macro phenomena, linking knowledge diffusion among firms, industries, and regions to the underlying mechanisms of employee entrepreneurship and mobility.

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