American women earn substantially more money and see the gender income gap narrowed if other women in their industries reach the ranks of upper management, according to a new study.

Presented at the 101st meeting of the American Sociological Association in Montreal, the study was conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sociologist Philip N. Cohen and University of California at Irvine sociologist Matt L. Huffman.

The sociologists said that their study is among the first to tackle what happens to workers when women break through the glass ceiling. The findings are based on 1.3 million American workers in nearly 30,000 jobs and 79 metropolitan areas, using data from the 2000 census. The men compared the information to known ratios of male and female managers in particular industries, and how senior the female managers were in each of those local industries. They also accounted for dozens of other variables, including race, geographic location, size of workers' families, education and experience.

Among the study's findings:

  • Increasing the number of women managers in junior positions makes no difference to the gender gap -- women on average continue to earn about 20 percent less than men.
  • Men who work for women managers seem to do slightly worse in income than men who work for men, regardless of whether the women managers are in senior positions.
  • Men work in jobs that are 70 percent male on average; women work in jobs that are 70 percent female on average.
  • The disparity between what men and women make remains unchanged when the number of junior-level women managers rises from 2 percent to more than 50 percent. However, when women become senior managers, female workers earn 91 percent of men's salaries.

Previously on WebCPA: Illinois Survey: Women Leadership Roles Show Little Change (May 9, 2006)Survey: Women Progressing, Alternative Paths Catching On (Feb. 22, 2006)

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