Human Capital and Labor Market

Factors that make up human capital

Another one of the main reasons it appears that women are more likely than not to be paid less than men within the STEM field has to do with human capital and the labor market. For example, according to the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, many employers discriminate based on the various productive differences between men and women. [1] It is believed by employers that males and females have two very different skill sets, and in this particular case, it is believed that women are far less productive than their male counterparts and they are therefore paid less for that reason. This information was tested experimentally by obtaining data from the American Chemical Society’s census from the year 2000, looking at approximately twenty-two thousand chemists. The study looked to compare years of experience and education. The formula used to determine experience was based on the number of years since earning a degree by the number of years squared, squared to account for the effect of slowly reducing the size of each year’s increase. [2] The study found that male chemists had more job experience than female chemists, averaging about 22 years of experience while female chemists only had an average of approximately 16 years and male chemists held more PhDs than female chemists, male chemists averaging at approximately 55 percent while female chemists were averaging at around 32 percent. [3] This study helped highlight how human capital plays a huge role in determining how men and women are paid in STEM. Men, having more experience and holding higher degrees than women, are considered by employers to have more human capital and are therefore paid more. 

Another reason for the pay gap, that was highlighted by a research article in Social Science Quarterly, a famed publication, is change in the labor market. A consequence of women being paid less than men is that less women choose to enter the field. This then leads to a cycle of women not entering because they are being paid less and then the pay gap gets wider and women are consistently being paid less than their male counterparts. [4] The article looks to compare wage trends between men and women going into the information science field. The article found that the number of women entering information science has sharply declined over the past twenty years and concludes that the reason why women might be leaving the field and failing to enter might be because they are not being paid well. [5] The article also finds that IS fields might be undesirable to women due to the fact that they are not as accommodating of families as other jobs within STEM might be. [6] This change in the labor market that allows for accommodations and higher pay in one area and not another may also be a significant explanation as to why there is a pay gap. 


[1] Broyles, Philip. "The Gender Pay Gap of STEM Professions in the United States." International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 29, no. 5-6 (0, 2009): 214-226. doi:

[2] Broyles, The Gender Pay Gap of STEM Professions in the United States.

[3] Broyles, The Gender Pay Gap of STEM Professions in the United States.

[4] Courey, Gabriel, and John S. Heywood. “Gender Wage Gap Trends Among Information Science Workers*.” Social Science Quarterly 99, no. 5 (2018): 1805–20.

[5] Courey, Gender Wage Gap Trends Among Information Science Workers.

[6] Courey, Gender Wage Gap Trends Among Information Science Workers.

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