Goldman Sachs Research

Closing the Gender Gaps 2.0: Fresh Data Show More Work to Do

Published onOCT 2019
Global Markets Institute Women

Global Markets Institute

Closing the Gender Gaps 2.0: Fresh Data Show More Work to Do

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This report updates the analysis originally published in Closing the gender gaps: Advancing women in corporate America (October 2018) using the latest available data. Please refer to the original report for further detail on our framework and recommendations. 

  • The gender wage gap among prime-age US workers remains 20%. Our updated analysis, which uses US Current Population Survey data from 2015 to 2019, shows that the economy-wide gender wage gap for prime-age workers is unchanged from the 20% figure seen in our earlier work, which used 2013 to 2017 data. On our math, if this wage gap were to narrow by roughly 2 percentage points every 10 years, consistent with performance over the past decade, it would take about another 100 years for women to reach wage parity with men on an economy-wide basis.
  • The latest data show there's more work to do. The 20% gap compares wages for women and men without regard for differences in their educational backgrounds, their work experiences or the nature of their jobs. After controlling for the factors that are captured in the US Current Population Survey data, our analysis shows that most of the 20% gap – 18.1 percentage points – cannot be explained. This is a marginal widening of the unexplained gap, which in our previous work was 17.5 percentage points. Small changes in the data may not indicate a broader shift in the trend, given both the limited passage of time since our previous paper and the methodology the government uses to compile these datasets. Nonetheless, our updated analysis suggests that there's still more work to do to narrow the wage gap.
  • Our preliminary analysis suggests that bans on salary-history inquiries may be helping. Some states and localities have banned employers from asking candidates about their salary histories. Many of these laws are relatively new, and more robust data over a longer timeframe are needed to draw firm conclusions. Still, some progress in these states suggests that active governmental policy changes – beyond the measures companies themselves can take – may help to narrow the gender wage gap over time.
  • The gender gap in corporate leadership remains stark. The data continue to point to the dearth of women in senior roles as a likely contributor to the gender wage gap. Although disclosures remain limited, the latest metrics for US-headquartered S&P 1500 companies indicate that while women are about 40% of all employees, they are only 5% of CEOs and 21% of directors.
  • "Action from the top" matters. Because men remain over-represented in corporate leadership positions and on corporate boards, as the data show, they hold the bulk of the decision-making authority today. This means that the gender gaps are unlikely to close without broad commitment and active participation by men and women alike. To be effective, the "tone from the top" needs to be accompanied by both action and accountability.


Amanda Hindlian
Managing Director, Global Investment Research, Goldman Sachs
Sandra Lawson
Managing Director, Global Investment Research, Goldman Sachs
Sonya Banerjee
Vice President, Global Investment Research, Goldman Sachs
Hui Shan
Vice President, Global Investment Research, Goldman Sachs


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