While much progress has been made, the gender wage gap remains evident in even the most progressive and equal societies. For example, the latest data for Denmark show that women’s earnings are 88 per cent of men’s — and lower still when comparing the earnings of female managers and professionals relative to their male peers.
Part of the explanation for the gender wage gap relates to gender-based differences in occupational profiles. Some jobs are disproportionately filled by male workers, while others are dominated by female workers. At one level, this can be understood as a form of path dependence: a profession which has a high share of women is perceived as ‘women’s work’, and therefore continues to attract more women than men.
Yet the strength of path dependence in this context is questionable, given that changes in gender profiles within occupations have taken place over time. In some cases, the changes have been profound. For example, across the developed world, teaching was historically a male-dominated field, but switched to a female-dominated one during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (In recent decades, the pendulum has begun to swing back, though to differing degrees for primary and secondary levels and across subjects.)