Women Archaeologists make less than Men Archaeologists?

Posted on March 11, 2017


77 cents on the dollar. Maybe you have heard 72 cents or 75 cents on the dollar or pence on the pound or cents on euro but it always ends with ‘women earn x to men’. It is a short and powerful message but like such messages hides complexities. For one, it implies that women get paid less for the same work as men but, that is false, and it actually hides a much more complicated argument than that.

How you get that number is you combine the wages of all women and all men, average them then compare them. The results vary across countries:

Gender wage gap by OECD countries. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OECD_gender_wage_gap.svg image in public domain.

Gender Wage Gap but EU country. Public Domain. Source- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EU_27_Gender_Pay_Gap_2014.png

Is combining all wages the best way to measure wage discrimination? It is defiantly more complicated than a single number. A EU investigation a few years ago found that this difference is because Women work part-time more often, which pays less, and have less senior roles (source). In the US, a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor, looked at the research on the topic and statistically analysed it to find that the wage gap can be attributed to factors such as:

  • “A greater percentage of women than men tend to work part-time. Part-time work tends to pay less than full-time work.”
  • “A greater percentage of women than men tend to leave the labor force for child birth, child care and elder care. Some of the wage gap is explained by the percentage of women who were not in the labor force during previous years, the age of women, and the number of children in the home.”
  • “Women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” work place policies more than men. Some of the wage gap is explained by industry and occupation, particularly, the percentage of women who work in the industry and occupation.” (source)

The report then goes on to state, “Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.”

If you stop reading now you will miss the point!

It is amazing how many people read the first few paragraphs of a report or executive summary and then start running their mouth off like they got a PhD in the subject and there opinion is the magnum opus on the subject.

The organisation that published the above report is now defunct so I have posted a link to the Internet Archive version of it. But, if you search for that file and the second search result (personal preferences turned off in Google, so the generic result coming from Google) is from WikiMANNia. For those not familiar, ‘The goal of WikiMANNia is to be a comprehensive library of men’s issues, antifeminism, men’s movement and criticism of feminism. It is dedicated to helping everyone who defends himself against these injustices by providing arguments and facts.” A report like the Labor Department one can easily be miss-read and used as fuel for ideological arguments. This is how antifeminists interpret the research,

“Research has clearly shown that the choices that men and women make, in the types of employment they undertake the amount of overtime they are prepared to work, and whether they are prepared to work in remote, dirty and dangerous conditions explain the vast bulk of the wage gap.” – WikiMANNia (not recommend reading if you would like to keep your mental health)

I could be wrong, but someone making 5-7% less because of who they were born is not mitigated because it isn’t 3-4x as bad as it could be. That Labor Department report waffles and says they couldn’t measure other factors such as experience and that there actually could be no wage gap. The report ends with,

“As a result, it is not possible now, and doubtless will never be possible, to determine reliably whether any portion of the observed gender wage gap is not attributable to factors that compensate women and men differently on socially acceptable bases, and hence can confidently be attributed to overt discrimination against women. In addition, at a practical level, the complex combination of factors that collectively determine the wages paid to different individuals makes the formulation of policy that will reliably redress any overt discrimination that does exist a task that is, at least, daunting and, more likely, unachievable.”

What is the Point?

Does this mean that the anti-feminists are correct, there is no wage gap? No! The point is not that there is a wage gap because of overt discrimination.  The point is that the so called “choices” are not choices.

“Women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” work place policies more than men”

Value? That is a term detached from reality.  Pregnancy is not a choice. Ok, it is for some people, but out of the two people involved in it, biologically, mentally, and financially it has a much greater impact on women. At least until we figure out a way for men to become pregnant. Moreover, child care disproportional impacts women as a result of cultural norms. Cultural pressures for women to take care of the children and for men to work makes this a choice on paper but not one that anyone would recognize as being without strong, if not extreme, social, and thus physical, barriers. Also, let’s be honest here, when I said pregnancy is a choice for some people I really mean affluent people who have access to safe and reliable birth control, which is a minority of the world’s population. They are also those who can overcome religious pressures (birth control is frowned upon by many religions) i.e. social norms.

As a general rule of thumb I don’t pick out a single sentence and tear it apart as one can easily make the wrong word choice and thus cause misinterpretation. However, that is the general tone taken throughout that report, women have “choices”.  That is the problem with the wage gap, is that it represents systemic discrimination that is ‘socially acceptable’, at least to some people, for now. The point is not that most employers sit in smoke filled rooms trying to do their best Mad Men impression of saying women should be paid less because they are women. No, it is about how a system discriminates against one type of person over another for no other reason than they were born a certain way and this can be easily, but crudely, be reflected in a single stat, ‘wage gap’.

A wage gap does not mean that for the same work women are paid less. A wage gap is a symptom of a system that keeps women from obtaining the same type of jobs as men…. or vice versa. Less not forget the social stigma of male nurses or teachers that results in a disproportionate gender ratio.

What does this have to do with Archaeology?

So that is a general overview of the gender gap around the world but one thing that is missing from most of these gender studies in analysis of specific professions. Overall, there may not be “overt discrimination” and just systemic “socially acceptable” discrimination but that does not mean it does not happen in specific professions. The meta analysis specifically pointed out that data by profession is poor. Is archaeology any different from the norm? Let’s take a look at the profession of archaeology around the world.

United States

There are indications of a wage gap from Charles Peliska’s recent survey of field archaeologists in the United States.

“at the low end there are twice as many women making less than $10/Hour and there are three times as many women making $10-$12/Hour as there men making those wages.  On the high end making over $30/Hour the ratio is close to 2 ½ times the number of men to women, indicating that while it can be broken, there does seem to still be a sort of a glass ceiling in our profession – at least when it comes to these participants.”

Wages Down, Down Under

This is not just an American problem. Geraldine Mate & Sean Ulm’s most recent profile of Australian archaeologists in 2014 found a wag gap and that it might be getting worse:

“The average salary for men in the discipline of AUD$105,796 has increased by $13,000 (14%) in the last 5 years (up from AU$92,796). In comparison, the average female salary (AUD$84,906) has risen by only 8% since 2010 (up from AUD$78,475), an increase well below the national average of 20%. This indicates a significant and growing disparity in the distribution of full-time income by gender, with women in archaeology earning an average of AUD$21,070 less than men (or put another way, men earning 25% more than women). This gap has widened since 2010 where the disparity was AUD$14,321, amounting to 18.2% difference (Ulm et al. 2013:38), while in 2005 the disparity was AUD$8,393 or 14% (women AUD$60,000 and men AUD$68,393).”

Full-time gross income from archaeologically-related employment during 2014 by gender (n¼219). Average income AUD$96,171 (Male: AUD$105,796; Female AUD$84,906). Average income based on all income data, including those with no gender nominated. Average income based on salary mid-point; mid-point of top category taken as AUD$195,000. Salaries in bottom ranges represent part year full-time employment.

Figure: Full-time gross income from archaeologically-related employment during 2014 by gender (n¼219). Average income AUD$96,171 (Male: AUD$105,796; Female AUD$84,906). Average income based on all income data, including those with no gender nominated. Average income based on salary mid-point; mid-point of top category taken as AUD$195,000. Salaries in bottom
ranges represent part year full-time employment.

Progress or Regressive Europe?

We have data on labour markets from a few countries in Europe because of the DISCO program but because each country collected their own data independently only a few examined gender and wages. The results show that some countries are better than others to work in for women’s wages:

  From 2012-2014 Men Women  Women to Men
Norway 426,962.61 401,275.31 94%
Italy Fixed term 17,172 12,681 74%
Italy Permanent 27,179 23,107 85%
Italy Freelance 17,714 10,714 60%
Netherlands Full-time 43,275 41,375 96%
Netherlands Part-time 40,644 40,721 100%


Figure 5.3.3 Gross annual income in Archaeology by gender, in 2013 (percentages refer to the total # of polled people, n= 572)

Figure 5.3.3 Gross annual income in Archaeology by gender, in 2013 (percentages refer to the total # of polled people, n= 572)

Wage Gap in Archaeology? Yes.

Like for everyone else the prevalence of a wage varies from country to country and even within the country based on type of work. We are not special.

What Causes It?

For most countries I don’t have access to raw date but for the UK I do. Here is pay by gender and age from the Profiling the Profession report. What you can see is that by age cohort wages are the same between genders with some fluctuation. But, notice the number of responses – there are more men in the older age group which get paid more. So when we average them all together we get £25,479 for women and £27,628 for men or a wage gap of 8%. So age, which is correlated with experience accounts for the difference.

age gender average salary responses Ratio
16-19 female  £                  – 0
male £34,500 2
20-29 female £21,525 72 107%
male £20,159 39
30-39 female £24,566 146 100%
male £24,582 130
40-49 female £27,515 92 93%
male £29,495 146
50-59 female £28,515 57 95%
male £30,130 104
60+ female £29,162 15 112%
male £26,015 30

From Profiling the Profession 2012-14 report.

Charles Peliska also gave me access to his raw data for the US (Thank you Charles). I ran the numbers of pay against age and experience for men and women. There is no way to make it into a good looking graph so below are the tables. When compared to percentages within genders i.e. percentage of women age 18 making a certain wage, we see that for the most part men and women are paid the same wage for equal levels of work and experience. Age and experience are correlated with pay and there are more older men. Essentially, at least for the areas we have the data to check, the wage gap is not related to misogyny in relation to pay (more below), at least not misogyny now (more below) but other factors.

 Gender and age $10.00 $10.00 – $12.00 per hour $12.01 – $14.99 per hour $15.00 – $18.00 per hour $18.00 – $24.00 per hour $25.00 – $30.00 per hour $30.00 Number of Responses
Female 18 0
Male 18 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1
Female 19-20 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1
Male 19-20 0% 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1
Female 20s 4% 9% 24% 34% 26% 3% 0% 93
Male 20s 4% 0% 25% 37% 29% 4% 0% 51
Female 30s 3% 1% 17% 29% 35% 10% 5% 103
Male 30s 0% 1% 14% 38% 32% 11% 4% 96
Female 40s 4% 0% 8% 38% 29% 17% 4% 24
Male 40s 0% 0% 6% 22% 47% 12% 12% 49
Female 50s 7% 0% 0% 21% 43% 14% 14% 14
Male 50s 0% 0% 0% 38% 31% 8% 23% 13
Female 60s 0% 0% 25% 25% 50% 0% 0% 4
Male 60s 7% 7% 7% 14% 7% 7% 50% 14
Female 70s 0
Male 70s 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 100% 1
Gender and Experience $10.00 $10.00 – $12.00 per hour $12.01 – $14.99 per hour $15.00 – $18.00 per hour $18.00 – $24.00 per hour $25.00 – $30.00 per hour $30.00 Number of Responses
Female 0 – 2 years 17% 9% 37% 34% 3% 0% 0% 35
Male 0 – 2 years 11% 6% 44% 33% 6% 0% 0% 18
Female 2 – 5 years 2% 6% 26% 34% 30% 2% 0% 50
Male 2 – 5 years 0% 0% 16% 36% 41% 2% 5% 44
Female 5 – 10 years 1% 2% 12% 35% 34% 12% 4% 85
Male 5 – 10 years 2% 0% 14% 38% 35% 11% 0% 65
Female 10 – 15 years 0% 3% 14% 31% 46% 0% 6% 35
Male 10 – 15 years 3% 3% 5% 38% 35% 13% 5% 40
Female 15 – 20 years 5% 0% 9% 5% 41% 27% 14% 22
Male 15 – 20 years 0% 0% 8% 16% 48% 20% 8% 25
Female 20+ 8% 0% 0% 33% 42% 17% 0% 12
Male 20+ 0% 3% 6% 21% 18% 9% 44% 34

Misogyny Still Exists

A lot of my research is related to labor (labour) market intelligence of archaeologists e.g. who we are, age, gender, etc. Every time I post a big report I inevitably get angry comments back about how my numbers must be wrong because that person does not make that amount of money or something else, like they work with all women so there must be more women. So I don’t mean to talk down to you but I need to put in this explanation-

Misogyny and discrimination still exists in archaeology. What this data shows is that it is not systematic within archaeology, in relation to pay. You personally may have been discriminated against because of age, gender, etc. with wages (probably other things too) and this data does not invalidate your personal experiences. In fact, because these are averages and samples it is highly unlikely that it represents your personal experiences at all. What this shows is there is not a sector-wide conspiracy to pay women less than man when they have similar levels of experience. There may be individual employers who do this but they are a minority. Or they do it in such a subtle way that it does not appear in the data e.g. men get $12.50 and women get $12.25 per hour in the US, too small of difference to appear in the data but still overt discrimination.

Wage Gap or Not?

So does archaeology have a wage gap? Well it depends on how you want to interpret the term ‘Wage Gap’. Overt discrimination in paying based on gender – no, currently it is not widespread in archaeology in respect to paying wages (other aspects, not within the scope of this piece). A systemic “socially acceptable” discrimination that keeps women for obtaining the same jobs- well, that is a bit complicated. All our longitudinal data indicates that archaeology was predominately a male profession due to past systematic discrimination (possibly “socially acceptable” discrimination but, given the number of stories I have heard, plain old overt discrimination made up a good portion of it too). This has a legacy affect in that age is correlated with experience which is correlated with pay. Now that more females are entering the profession and staying, the wage gap is shrinking, at least where we can measure it (figure below from UK). This mean misogyny does affect wages, just not directly. As the younger generations, which appear to have fewer barriers for women(?),age and move into more senior positions we will see the wage gap shrink until it disappears.

Age and gender of archaeologists in the UK. 2012-14 Profiling the Profession report.

Or will we?

I would not extrapolate this out to all archaeologists in all countries. Obviously, some countries are more equal than others (Norway, Netherlands). Moreover, we still need more longitudinal data. In the UK and US there is a drop off at age 40 for women participating that while shrinking over the years appears to be a bit more persistent than other age groups. There could be an issue with family care for women. The next Profiling the Profession survey should determine this in the UK. Archaeology may have a family problem that is causing women, and some men, to drop out of the profession or sideline them into certain jobs. This could mean that the wage gap will never disappear as women are kept from senior positions.

How Long of a Wait?

Assuming everything goes well and we have removed all of the barriers to women in archaeology than in the UK or US we are looking at three decades before those older age cohorts, (40s, 50s and 60s) have gender parity. Can you, the profession, wait that long?

What are the Solutions?

Unfortunately, it is even more complicated than that just waiting three decades and hoping it will all be alright. The younger generations of archaeologists, in their 20s and 30s are more female dominated. We will reach an even ratio overall soon in the US and UK but men will be concentrated in the older age brackets and women in the younger. Effectively, we will have systematic gender discrimination all over archaeology which will present both logistical and ethical issues to deal with.

For example, do we start to encourage more men to join the profession? Can you imagine telling women archaeologists, ‘so for decades now you faced adverse conditions that kept you from a career in archaeology while men had it easier (relative term) but now we need to start offering scholarships to men. There was a brief decade there were you had it ok but now we need to offer you less opportunities.’

What about the older generations and current situation? Do we simply write it off as something that happened in the past? Shrug our shoulders and say, ‘sorry folks, you were born at a time when women had it rougher in archaeology, sucks to be you.’

Or do we break the link between age/experience and gender? Do we set quotas for all positions and age groups, promote more women quicker to higher positions, and reserve lower positions for more men so that we don’t wait three decades to just have a different type of problem?

My Solution

To be honest, I don’t know the solution to these problems. Well I know the technical solutions. The current gender ratio of new entrants is a reflection of Universities and more women now go to University than men in some countries. That is where efforts need to be made to target gender ratios in new entrants. That is either means changing how Universities work or how the profession gets people in e.g. drop the requirement for degrees. What I don’t know is the ethical decisions that need to be made. Do we start reverse discrimination to equal out numbers? Maybe in a few years I will have it figured out but if you have any opinions I would love to hear them.

General Note– This is the rough outline of a paper I am going to present at CAA next week. It only covers the whole field of archaeology and not individual sub-fields e.g. computing archaeology, classical archaeology,etc.. Some of the other presenters will demonstrate that there are some issues in the sub-fields of archaeology that are hidden by these broad brush numbers, and not just about wages. We will be filming it so hopefully you can see some of those presentations.

Note on Spelling and Grammar– I have dyslexia so I will miss smelling and grammar mistakes. Apologies, I did not have enough time for someone else to proof read this before posting, we needed to share our papers before the session so our fellow speakers could see it. If you see anything please let me know and I will fix it.

Note on socially acceptable discrimination – as sarcasm does not always translate well in writing my use of the term is mocking in case that was not clear. It was at one point socially acceptable to deny my wife and I our right to marriage so I generally have the opinion that such a term is the polite way of saying, ‘it’s ok to be an asshole’, which I think is NOT ok.

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