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Women Can't Get Equal Pay in Finance No Matter What They Do

Only some of the wage gap could be explained by the field of finance women chose to pursue
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Photographer: Toonari Post/Flickr

Women have yet to close the wage gap, even when they have similar jobs to their male counterparts. That's especially true on Wall Street. Last year, women who graduated from business school and took jobs in financial services earned an average of $21,872 less than male MBAs, according to data collected by Bloomberg Business. Drilling down into the numbers shows part of that discrepancy is explained by differences in the type of finance companies that hired women, but a gap persisted even when women worked in similar sub-sectors of finance as men. 

In a survey of 9,965 graduating MBAs, conducted for Bloomberg Businessweek's 2014 business school rankings, we found a pattern of compensation inequality that was particularly pointed in financial services. Of the 1,024 respondents who went into financial services, men not only dominated the most lucrative pockets of finance; they also went into the highest-paying industries more often than women. Nearly 49 percent of male MBAs entering finance went into commercial or investment banking, compared with 39.8 percent of female MBAs. The sectors of finance women went into at greater rates—including insurance, brokerage, and the pension fund industry—tended to pay less than the top industries for men. It's possible some women are put off from applying to some of the most lucrative Wall Street jobs because of the stereotypes surrounding them, says Matthew Bidwell, a management professor at the Wharton School. "When you think about the image of the investment banker, it's self-centered, it's money-oriented, and it's aggressive—particularly low on the kind of characteristics society thinks of as being appropriate for women."