Though females constitute the majority of college graduates in many countries, three of every five workers in the region are male, and males earn about 30 percent more income than females with the same age, level of education, type of employment, and average hours worked per week, according to an article released today in Americas Quarterly.
Hugo Ñopo, author of “The Paradox of Girls’ Educational Attainment” and a research economist at the Inter-American Development Bank, looks at the continuation of gender disparities in the workforce despite females outpacing males in educational attainment. Ñopo explains that these disparities lie partly in the fact that women hoping to balance work and household responsibilities often seek part-time or flexible employment, limiting their access to top-paying occupations.
Yet part of the answer also lies in the type of education women are receiving—even at the highest levels. In seven of nine Latin American countries, girls’ test scores in quantitative fields like math and science lag far behind those of their male peers; and the many women who do receive college degrees comprise only a fraction of those studying engineering, manufacturing or construction.
Negative stereotypes and perceptions about gender roles are a major factor in leading males and females to pursue certain fields of study. As fewer women choose paths that require quantitative skills, they limit their opportunities for attaining high-paying positions and/or positions of leadership, deepening gender disparities in the workforce.
Ñopo recommends investment in early childhood development, which includes teaching children before they enter school that “mathematics is for me” and “yes, I can.” Although teachers’ training to eliminate stereotypes is suggested, it is equally or more important for children to understand gender parity from their parents and support structures at home.