Why “The Boys Club” Hurts the Gender Wage Gap


Christian Clavadetscher

In order for the gender wage gap to be equalized, more females need to be awarded high ranking positions, such as CEO (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Shelby Daniel

In order for the gender wage gap to be equalized, more females need to be awarded high ranking positions, such as CEO. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Despite the recent call of attention to the increasing gender wage gap, many still fail to recognize the primary cause of this gap – namely, the domination of males in high profile fields. Researchers at Cornell University recently produced a study that found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines, despite these jobs being the exact same ones that men were doing previously.

For example, as of 2017, 32 of the Fortune 500 companies are being run by women, meaning that only 6.4 percent of the U.S.’s biggest companies by revenue are run by women. Additionally, Morningstar ran a study that found that less than 10 percent of all U.S. fund managers are women, and women exclusively run about 2 percent of the industry’s assets and open-end funds. What defines a high-profile field is not just limited to business and finance positions – the entertainment industry also experiences a lack of females in leadership positions. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, in 2016, women only accounted for 7 percent of film directors. In comedy, The New York Times found that there was not a single female writer on late-night TV in 2015. Further supporting this, the Writers Guild of America released a report in 2009 that stated that 28 percent of television writers and just 18 percent of writers in the film industry are women.

It is important to note that the statistics in these fields are not just anomalies. According to Labor Department data analyzed by author of the Third Way report Emily Liner concerning the 30 highest-paying jobs, including chief executive, architect and computer engineer, 26 are male-dominated. Of the 30 lowest-paying ones, including food server, housekeeper and child-care worker, 23 are female dominated.

Women have been told repeatedly that we must achieve success on merit, on hard work. In 2015, the Census Bureau released that based on their statistics for higher level education, women are more likely to receive a college degree than men. With most high profile positions requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree, if not more, one would think there would be a direct correlation between statistics in education and the ability to achieve high paying jobs. However, lately even having increased qualifications seems like it is not enough for women.

The question must be raised then: why are women not able to infiltrate leadership positions in high profile fields? The simple answer is the systematic sexism that most men in these fields assist in perpetuating. Whether or not it is conscious, men establish what feels like a “boys club” in these fields, preventing women from entering what seems like an exclusive “members-only” group where the qualification for entry is simply being male. This means men are more likely to be chosen for promotions, more likely to receive positive praise, and more likely to be employed in the first place in these high-profile positions.

What is additionally pressing about the presence of men in high profile positions is the image it emits to the public. Not seeing any females in positions of power suggests that it is impossible for these positions to be accessible to females, discouraging them from trying to infiltrate and move up in high profile fields.
Ultimately, the male domination of high profile fields does matter, as it perpetuates systemic sexism that prevents females from being able to achieve success in their fields, despite whatever qualifications and ambitions they may have. Statistics can consistently be cited about the continued lack of opportunity women have to enter these high profile fields, but without conscious change to the internalized sexism present within major industries, the wage gap will still be an ever-present oppressive weight on women in the workforce.


Shelby Daniel, FCRH ’20, is a journalism major from Tampa, Florida.