Male workers receive a higher salary on average than female workers, creating a gender salary gap. This gap has been steadily decreasing over time, although the average salary for a female worker was still 77 percent of the average salary for a male worker in 2008, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
The average female worker earned less than 60 percent of the average male worker's salary in 1980. According to the University of the South, the wage gap between men and women was higher in the past when there were fewer women working in higher paying careers such as medicine and engineering. As more women train for higher-paying jobs, the salary gap gradually decreases.
If an individual male worker and female worker perform the same job and have the same qualifications, the employer cannot pay the female worker a lower wage. According to the University of the South, the Equal Pay Act requires an employer to not discriminate on the basis of sex when deciding how much to pay an employee.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a man who performs a job that women usually performs earns less money than a man who works in a male-dominated field, and a woman performing a job that men usually perform earns more than other women, on average. Many low-paying jobs such as social workers, bookkeepers, secretaries, and childcare, are often performed by women.
Even when males and females select the same profession, males tend to receive a higher salary. According to the state of Tennessee, male physicians are more likely to work in higher-paying areas, such as surgery, and female physicians are more likely to select lower-paying medical jobs such as pediatrics and family care.
Other factors affect the size of this wage gap. The gap between female and male salaries is larger for minority workers. According to the state of Massachusetts, the salary gap is greater at higher education levels, so the average woman with a doctorate receives a much lower salary than the average man with a doctorate gets.