This article was produced and financed by Oslo Metropolitan University

Female nurses choose jobs with best opportunities for working part-time. (Photo: Colourbox)

High salary is a lower priority for women

Even women who are concerned about high salaries, focuses on other things when they choose jobs.

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Oslo Metropolitan University

Oslo Metropolitan University is a state university in Oslo and Akershus in Norway.

"Although students of both sexes are interested in earning a high salary in their future careers, it tends to have lower priority for women when deciding which job to take," says researcher Bente Abrahamsen at HiOA, who is behind a study that looks at student's career preferences in different professions.

Men, on the other hand, are more interested in salary and less interested in other aspects.

Why do women earn less?

The usual explanation for the gender wage gap is that men work in highly paid professions and women work in poorly-paid professions.

However, Abrahamsen's research findings show that choice of profession does not fully explain why women earn less than men.

Bente Abrahamsen, Senior Researcher at the Centre for the Study of Professions, HiOA. (Photo: Benjamin A. Ward)

"It seems that personal preferences are crucial for understanding the gender wage gap, and they can explain why women earn less than men – even when they choose the same profession," says Abrahamsen.

Consequently, a male nurse will prioritise salary when choosing a job whereas a female nurse will choose the job with best opportunities for working part-time.

Part-time work and children

According to the study, it is not only women caring for children that are interested in part-time jobs; women without children also opt for jobs with good part-time schemes. One possible explanation is that they think ahead, to a time when they will want to work part-time.

"It therefore comes as no surprise that more women than men have jobs that offer good opportunities for working part-time and that more men than women have jobs that pay more," says Abrahamsen.

Don't work part-time

It also appears that very few women who apply for jobs offering good opportunities for working part-time do actually work part-time. According to Abraham's analysis, this may be because working part-time may not suit many women's current life situation, though there may be other explanations.

"Once they enter working life , women actually become less interested in working part-time and become more interested in earning a high salary," says Abrahamsen.

The gender wage gap is largly due to the fact that women and men choose jobs with different career opportunities.

Equal and traditional

The fact that both male and female students are equally concerned with high salary shows that the Norwegian equality ideal is deeply entrenched," says Abrahamsen.

The strong interest in part-time work among women, however, is in stark contrast, and shows that women are also influenced by traditional gender-role attitudes.

"Most of them find it difficult to realise their desire for high salary and part-time work," says Abrahamsen.

"This reflects attitudes in the rest of society, where almost 50 per cent of Norwegian women work part-time and – unlike men ­– adapt their working hours to suit family life.

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