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Climbing the Ladder, Widening the Gender Pay Gap

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Women in upper-level roles who manage teams or people feel the pay gap the most compared to other jobs—earning 17 cents less than male peers for every dollar made.

New analysis from Earnest student loan refinance program shows that women earn less than men in more than two dozen common job titles, spanning all levels of work experience and training.

The data analysis also showed that the median gender pay gap is the widest overall in upper-level jobs associated with managing other employees and narrower in non-managerial professional positions that require specific training or credentials.

The pay gap is even reversed for some service-related positions that are traditionally female-dominated, such as cashiers and baristas.

Key takeaways 

  • Across all job titles included in the analysis, women earn a median of 92 cents on the dollar compared to men—a pay gap of 8 cents.
  • When managing teams or people in upper-management roles, women earn a median of 83 cents for every dollar earned by men with the same job title—a pay gap of 17 cents.
  • When in roles more related to managing processes or account relationships, women earn a median of 90 cents on the dollar compared to men—a pay gap of 10 cents.
  • When in non-managerial professional positions, women earn a median of 94 cents of every dollar earned by men with the same job title—a pay gap of 6 cents.

Earnest’s findings add additional detail to existing research about the difference in earnings between men and women, including recent research from the Economic Policy Institute.

Earnest’s analysis is based on anonymized data from more than 18,000 jobs held by loan applicants, combined with historical birth records to estimate the likely gender of individuals based on their first name.

National data has shown an overall pay gap of 21 cents—or that women earn, on average, 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. This statistic includes the broadest range of working women and men in the United States, whereas Earnest’s analysis compares pay within a smaller range of job titles and provides more specific comparison points.



The pay gap and the reasons behind it are frequently discussed by both the press and policymakers. Choices about part-time work, schedule flexibility, and time away from the workplace for child-rearing continue to account for some of the earnings drag for women. However, other research shows that when women enter a field, the field’s pay simply declines, the New York Times reported.

Earnest’s data doesn’t tell us why the pay gap is greatest in positions such as upper management. However, a recent Wall Street Journal article suggested a host of possible reasons for the greater pay gap in elite roles, including workplace cultures and a greater financial penalty for those who work limited or more flexible hours or those who do not job-hop as frequently.

Data from Earnest showed the job title with the greatest gender pay gap was medical physicians. Female physicians had median earnings of $180,000 compared with $216,000 for their male counterparts.

Consultants and accountants both showed a much smaller gap. Female accountants earn a median of $50,000 and male accountants earn a median of $50,500; with consultants, females earn a median of $92,000 and males earn a median of $92,500.

While Earnest’s analysis of pay within specific job titles shows a smaller difference than the national statistic of 79 cents on the dollar, it also supports the conclusion of senior economist Elise Gould who led the EPI study.

As reported by the Huffington Post, Gould said that “Most of the gender wage gap can be explained by the fact that women, on average, are paid less than men in the same occupation.”



Even as policymakers continue to talk about ways to close the gender pay gap (the government recently hosted a hackathon to innovate solutions), on an individual basis earning more might sometimes come down to asking for more. In a recent survey, Earnest found that young women age 18-24 are the least likely to negotiate a job offer, with only 26% negotiating compared to 42% of men in the same age group.

More broadly, companies are increasingly offering better family-friendly policies and are adding more transparency around salary information.


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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.