Forbes claims that gender and age discrimination compound more for women as they age, to the point where it can be difficult for older women to get jobs. The gender gap is pretty well-known, but I have heard less about the gender gap as it relates to age. So I have these questions:

  1. Is the pay gap between women and men explained better by age discrimination compounded with gender discrimination than by other factors? (ie, older women being out of the workplace longer, or having less experience)
  2. Aside from a pay gap, is their an "employment gap" where older women are less likely to get jobs than their male or younger colleges?
  • it's not a gender gap, but an age gap that makes it harder for older people to get jobs. In IT for example, if you're >35 you're considered old and will find it very hard to get employment, >45 and it may well be impossible (even >25 it gets progressively harder).
    – jwenting
    Sep 16, 2011 at 7:22
  • And of course there's no pay gap either. Hourly rates for women are identical if not higher than those for men doing the same work. If women are more prone to working part time (thus, fewer hours) than men and end up having a lower monthly pay as a result, that's not because of discrimination but because of choices they made themselves.
    – jwenting
    Sep 16, 2011 at 7:24
  • @jwe funnily enough I'm 40 and not only I have no problem getting an IT/coding job, but also I am paid signifincanly more than younger coders.
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 16, 2011 at 8:54
  • might be regional, Sklivvz... Here you're going to find it hard to get employment >35 because you "don't fit in our young and dynamic team", unless maybe the people who're interviewing you have a few grey hairs themselves.
    – jwenting
    Sep 16, 2011 at 11:54
  • @Sklivvz - it varies. In my company it's hard to be an older worker simply because the baseline expectation is to be working 13-18 hour days. CONSTANTLY. That doesn't mesh with having family and children (unless you're a senior manager and can afford hired help at home and apartment in the middle of Manghattan close to work), and definitely starts being hard to do once you're in mid-30s as far as sleep/rest amounts needed. It's not so much discrimination as younger workers having better advantages given the requirements.
    – user5341
    Sep 16, 2011 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


Much of the pay gap is explained by motherhood, in that working mothers earn much less on average than working fathers, and the average gap is less between childless working men and women. Because people are more likely to be parents as they get older, this has an effect on the relationship between pay, gender and age. You can see some UK numbers on page 8 here: women's median pay is 95% of men's for 22-29 year olds but 76% for 50-59 year olds. A harder question is how much of this involves a choice (with many mothers often choosing more flexible work which happens to be lower paid).

In the UK, women are less likely to work than men at each age group, but unemployment rates (i.e. those looking for work who cannot find it) are similar at each age group up to about 50. After 50, women are dramatically less likely to be looking for work than men of the same age. Part of this may be due to lower formal retirement ages, though there may also be women who want to stop work at the same time as their (on average) older husbands. Some UK numbers can be found on tab 2(2) here showing unemployment rates of 8.2% for men and 7.3% for 25-34 year olds, compared with 5.8% for men and 3.4% for women for 50-65 year olds. Not working looks likely to be voluntary for many older women.

  • you forgot to mention that the "studies" finding pay discrimination for women don't take the actual work into account. They compare monthly or yearly income of women in average to that of men, without considering that a higher percentage of low pay jobs (secretaries, nurses, teachers) are filled by women as compared to men, by choice of the women (this goes back to education where men are more represented in courses leading to eventually higher paying jobs).
    – jwenting
    Sep 16, 2011 at 7:26
  • @jwenting: It is extremely complicated. There is something to what you say where women are more likely to work in the lower paying public sector. On the other hand, women are less likely than men to do manual work, which is on average lower paid. To make things more complicated still, the sector with the biggest internal gender pay gap, finance, is also the highest paying sector for women, so if more women moved into finance then discrimination would increase but the overall pay gap would fall.
    – Henry
    Sep 16, 2011 at 13:09
  • @Henry - "discrimination would increase" - bullshit. Finance types can't afford to NOT pay a qualified person less, because (1) good talent is pretty scarce - I've actually BEEN part of the hiring process so I know ; and (2) They have a LOT more to loose from discrimination suits. Unless you can show me a specific woman who performed EXACTLY as well doing THE SAME job as a man, and that man was paid more, ANY claiming "discrimination" is, to put it mildly, a lie. Yeah, on average women are paid less. They also, on average, put in less overtime + less aggressive (which can impact productivity)
    – user5341
    Sep 16, 2011 at 14:28
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    @DVK Your understanding of economics is simplistic and naive, and furthermore you forget that reality is often counter-intuitive. You refuse to take into account psychology (and more). Furthermore, your capital-letter “PROOF” and your belief in some mythical “laws” of economy show that you’re not really amenable to arguments, even though this (often subconscious) gender bias is extremely well documented, reproducible, and firmly established and supported by modern statistical methods designed to distinguish influencing factors (cf. ANOVA). You are arguing in a factual void against evidence. Sep 16, 2011 at 21:22
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    @KonradG The same way you get to “X% of the variation is due to smoking”, “X% of the variation is due to fertiliser” or … you get the idea. In none of these kinds of studies can you prove causation but if you carefully control for confounding factors then there is nothing else left to explain the variation. That said, even some of the explainable factors relate to discrimination, as is quite clearly stated in the EU reports on this subject. Sep 20, 2011 at 7:23

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