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A Pay Gap for Women's Managers

August 25, 2003

In addition to the gender gap in wages, there is a gap in the pay of both male and female managers of women, compared to those who manage primarily males, according to a new study. The study also suggests that pay is depressed for male or female managers who supervise, report to or otherwise work with women.

Working with Leanne Atwater at Arizona State University West, Cheri Ostroff of Columbia University Teachers College studied more than 2,100 managers representing 512 companies from 1991 to 2000. According to the findings in the Journal of Applied Psychology:

  • Even when fewer than half the people supervised were female, managers made $1,000 or $2,000 less a year than if they led an all-male group, Ostroff said.
  • When a majority of people supervised were female, pay dropped steeply, and once the group is 90 percent female, managers could be paid an average $10,000 less than someone who has all males in their group.
  • Having more female peers or supervisors also depressed a manager's pay, but not as dramatically.
  • Those with female peers, supervisor and subordinates had lower earnings by $20,000 a year or more.
  • Even without accounting for colleagues' gender, the female managers earned on average 9 percent less than male managers in similar circumstances.

The cause of that gap didn't appear related to a sex bias in rating performance, the study said, noting that the women got higher performance scores than the men did.

Source: Karen Patterson, "Study: Managers who work with women make less money," Dallas Morning News, August 25, 2003; based on Cheri Ostroff and Leanne E. Atwater, "Does Whom You Work With Matter? Effects of Referent Group Gender and Age Composition on Managers' Compensation," Journal of Applied Psychology, August 2003, American Psychological Association.


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