1. Men suffer the vast majority of workplace fatalities and injuries.
All other things being equal, if one job is more dangerous than the other, it necessarily pays more. Given the fact that the most dangerous professions are almost exclusively filled by men, it makes sense that men make more than women.
92% of workplace fatalities are male. From that, we can infer that men occupy roughly 92% of “dangerous” jobs. I think that deserves a pay premium, don’t you?
Source: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
2. Men work more hours than women
Again, all things being equal, if you work more, you get paid more. In 2013, men 16 years and older worked an average of 40.8 hours per week. Women 16 years and older worked 36 hours per week.
Source: Current Population Survey (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
3. Men are more likely to work in “strategic” sectors of the economy
Mining, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, transportation, defense, these are the “real” sectors of the economy. And men make up the vast majority of the workforce in these kinds of jobs. And they are the least glamorous, most thankless jobs in the economy as a whole.
Don’t get me wrong, the service sector is extremely important to the economy as a whole. After all, it makes up just a hair under 80% of the total economy. But it’s also the least productive per capita. And it’s the sector of the economy that’s the most subjective in its valuation. Apple is the single most valuable company in the US economy, but you can’t feed your family with it. It’s only when our most basic needs are met that we can focus on leisurely and frivolous pursuits like TV, sports, fashion, etc.
Women are far more likely to be interested in service/entertainment fields like writing, journalism, fashion, entertainment, marketing, and advertising. And while you can make good money doing those kinds of jobs, those labor markets are characterized by a winner-take-all system in which a select few enjoy outsized wealth and influence while a sea of unemployed or marginally attached workers are desperately trying to become part of the elite.
The people who do all the “real” work in the economy are overwhelmingly male. I went to a school that specialized in engineering and science. There were a lot more girls in majors like business administration (what we considered to be the “joke” major) than in chemical engineering, for instance.
Men comprise 75% of all workers in agriculture and related industries (fishing, forestry, etc) and 68% of all workers in mining, construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation, and utilities.
Now don’t get me wrong, if an employer deliberately underpays their female employees despite the fact that they are just as productive as their male counterparts, that’s an injustice that should be remedied.
But outside of that, people need to face facts that there are significant cultural and physiological obstacles that make it highly unlikely that women, in aggregate, will ever match male wages. Things like parental leave, choice of occupation, and hours worked all have real effects on wages. And most of them break against women.
Ideally, all of the drudgery required to operate the modern economy would be completely automated. That would create the conditions that would make it possible for women to bridge the wage gap with men. But until we can rely exclusively on robots to farm crops, mine ore, weld pipes, assemble manufactured goods, transport cargo, and construct buildings, men will fill those jobs. And they will get paid accordingly.