Gender, Self-Beliefs, and Closing the Initial Salary Gap in Quantitative Field

By Adina SterlingShannon GilmartinSheri Sheppard
2021| Working Paper No. 3940

Scholars suggest more women should enter lucrative jobs like those in engineering and computer science to reduce the existing gender gap in pay, but also point out women’s self-beliefs in their abilities in these domains lack men’s in ways that may reduce women’s pay. We develop theory that suggests even if women’s self-beliefs lag men’s, self-beliefs need not be the pathway by which the gender pay gap closes: this might be achieved by influencing employers’ beliefs regardless of women’s self-beliefs. Using an original three-wave NSF-funded longitudinal survey of 559 engineering and computer science students that graduated from over two dozen institutions in the U.S. between 2015-2017, we find support for our theory. While women make less than men, the gender wage gap closes when women receive offers after a period of time when employers themselves have been able to verify a woman’s abilities — i.e. in internships — and this has a larger effect than self-beliefs on the salaries of women, while the opposite is the case for men. We close with a discussion of our theory and how recognizing ‘remediation fallacies’ in the way equitable outcomes are achieved advances theory on gender, labor markets, and organizations.