Women’s earning potential peaks at 39, but for men it keeps going


Have you ever heard of the concept of a Glass Ceiling? It refers to that unseen, yet totally unbreakable barrier that prevents people from rising up the career ladder, often regardless of their qualifications or achievements.

But does this Glass Ceiling really exist? And is it the reason for the gender pay gap?

The gap starts widening in your 30s

Starting off in their careers, both men and women earn a similar salary. However, for women salary growth substantially slows down from their 30s while men will continue to see a steady increase. By the age of 39, an average university educated woman working full-time will see her salary peak at around $60, 000 USD per year. Her male counterparts will continue to see increases until the age of 49, at which point their median will be $95, 000 USD.

According to PayScale, salary growth for educated men stops at the age of 49, and 40 for women, giving men an additional nearly 10 years of sustained growth.

So why the difference? Children! 👶

There are numerous reasons for this phenomenon. Firstly, certain industries, such as engineering and technology are male dominated and offer high salaries, which skews the numbers compared to industries such as nursing and teaching which feature more women and generally lower salaries.

Secondly, a slowdown in earning potential correlates heavily to having children. It’s common for one parent to stop working to take care of the children full-time, and more often than not it’s the woman that takes on this responsibility. Even a working mum will usually request reduced or flexible hours, diminishing their ability to compete with male counterparts in the work place.

Thirdly, Glass Ceilings still exist, and while there are signs of improvement, this still permeates certain companies and industries.

What can we do to reduce the gap?

Some European countries, in a bid to alleviate the gap now provide paternal leave for men and flexible work schedules for parents with newborn babies. The hope is to help shift the babysitting responsibilities more equally across both parents. Under policies like this, women would have more time for work which will increase their competitiveness in the workplace.

This might sound unfair for women in the workplace, but according to research featured by the Guardian, women in the 20s earn more than men of the same age. o

Naomi Chan

Career Coach and professional career hacker at Team Vanna

4 min read

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