How the way we search for jobs can affect the gender pay gap

'Overconfident' men often wait longer for higher-paying positions, accounting for about 30% of difference between sexes, study finds

Women are likely to accept job offers earlier than men, the study showed. PA
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The gender pay gap may begin before we even get the job, a study shows.

It found women typically accept offers earlier than men, who tend to wait for higher-paying positions.

This difference in job search behaviour contributes to the well-documented pay gap, with women in the US earning only 84 per cent as much as men in 2020.

The research by economists at Oxford University Press, published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, looked at surveys from recent graduates of Boston University's business school between 2013 and 2019.

These surveys provided valuable information on job offers, acceptances, and the job search process as a whole.

The study discovered that women, on average, accepted jobs about a month earlier than their male counterparts, with 60 per cent accepting a position before graduation compared to 52 per cent of men.

The gender pay gap was most significant early in the job search, starting at around 16 per cent and decreasing to about 10 per cent eight months after graduation.

Lead author Patricia Cortes explains that this difference in job search behaviour can be partially attributed to men's higher risk tolerance and overconfidence in their salary potential.

This translates into women accepting lower-paying job offers earlier.

According to the study, gender differences in risk preferences and salary over-optimism account for about 30 per cent of the gap in accepted earnings.

“Our study shows that differences in the way men and women search for jobs matter for gender pay gaps in early career,” said Ms Cortes

“Gender differences in risk preferences and overconfidence about future job offers result in women having lower reservation earnings, which translates into earlier acceptance of lower-paying job offers. Gender differences in these traits may explain as much as 30 per cent of the difference between men's and women's earnings in their first jobs.”

Updated: May 02, 2023, 4:05 AM