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Best and worst industries for women to work in

Female-dominated industries pay the lowest salaries. New research suggests that work done by women simply isn’t valued as highly. That sounds like a truism, but the academic work behind it helps explain the pay gap’s persistence even as the factors long thought to cause it have disappeared. Women, for example, are now better educated than men, have nearly as much work experience and are equally likely to pursue many high-paying careers. No longer can the gap be dismissed with lazy observations that women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work.

A new study from researchers at Cornell University 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 — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.

Let that sink in for a moment…

Giraffe analysed its database of close to one million candidates to generate an accurate representation of the pay gaps between male and female South African workers. Since Giraffe has highly granular data on age, location, education and work experience, this gender pay gap analysis is arguably the most detailed to date. 


In our report we found industries that have a higher than average female representation have lower than average salaries. Call centres have a higher proportion of women and also show a 23% gap in pay. This means that while some industries may be concentrated with women, the men that work in these industries will still earn more.  

Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data in the USA the median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women). 

It follows that the best industries and occupations for women to work in are those dominated by men! The Giraffe report found that the industries dominated by men; construction, transport and information technology, will on average pay better salaries. This finding is supported by new research by Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, economists at Cornell which find that the differences in the type of work men and women do account for 51 percent of the pay gap. 


Some of the major findings in this report reveal that:

  • On average South African men earn 25% more than women
  • South Africa ranks as one of the most equal paying countries in the world- 19th out of 149
  • The gender pay gap starts to widen from the age of 26 years old with the largest difference is at age 36 to 44 (33%)
  • Education decreases the gap but does not eliminate it- women with degrees will start off earning 5% less than their male colleagues
  • Women without a matric are most vulnerable to pay discrimination with an average pay gap of 33%
  • Men with limited education have better opportunities (construction, security, warehousing and transport) than women with limited education (hotels, supermarkets and restaurants).
  • The older women get, the larger the pay gap gets- likely due to childcare and exit from the workforce for a period where male peers can overtake them
  • The most unequal-paying occupations for women are: Nurse, Salesperson, Welder, Supervisor, Machine Operator and Waiter
  • The most equal paying occupations for women are Receptionist/ PA, Admin, Shop assistant, Data capturer
  • Male managers earn 21% more than female managers


About Giraffe

Giraffe is a job board that automatically screens candidates so you don’t have to. Giraffe enables South African businesses to recruit medium-skilled staff faster and more affordably than any other recruitment method. Because Giraffe has automated the boring parts of the recruitment process– candidate sourcing and screening– business owners and recruiters can focus on more important tasks like interviewing the best candidates and managing retention. Simply post a job on Giraffe. Let Giraffe automatically screen candidates as they apply. Log in, see which candidates have passed your screening, listen to their voice notes and hire the best ones! 

To post a job on Giraffe click here

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