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The gender pay gap of STEM professions in the United States

Philip Broyles (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 19 June 2009




The purpose of this paper is to examine the gender gap in earnings in one science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) profession: chemistry. The primary purpose of this research is to determine the relative effects of human capital, labor market structure, and employer discrimination on the gender pay gap of chemists.


Data for this study are obtained from the American Chemical Society (ACS) 2000 census of its membership (N = 22,081). According to the ACS census, male chemists earned 30 percent more than female chemists in 2000. This earnings gap is decomposed by modeling earnings as an exponential function of gender, education, work experience, work function, type of employer, size of employer, region of work and a variety of family and demographic characteristics.


The analysis shows that 83 percent of the gender gap is explained by differences in productive characteristics and 17 percent is due to discrimination or other unmeasured factors. Experience and education account for much of the gender gap – on average, men have higher levels of experience and education than do women. Work function and employer also help account for the pay gap – women are more likely to hold positions in lower paying chemistry positions.

Practical implications

This paper suggests that workplace diversity in STEM professions is not likely to occur without wage parity between men and women in STEM professions. One viable approach to achieving gender pay equity in STEM professions is to provide a federal tax incentive for compliance with federal pay equity standards.


This paper shows the level of employer discrimination in one important STEM profession (chemistry), and its implications.



Broyles, P. (2009), "The gender pay gap of STEM professions in the United States", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 29 No. 5/6, pp. 214-226.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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