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Addressing Gender Pay Gap in Academia, Especially within STEM Fields

On the occasion of International Equal Pay Day on September 18th and on the occasion of the Nobel Prize to Claudia Goldin “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labor market outcomes” (The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 9/10/2023) TARGETED-MPI team sought to emphasize the issue of equal pay in academia, particularly within STEM fields.

According to UN Women, women globally face a significant income disparity, earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. This persistent wage gap leads to lifelong financial inequality and an increased risk of women retiring in poverty. This issue is prevalent across nations and industries, primarily driven by the undervaluation of women’s work and occupational segregation. Even when women perform equally demanding roles, their compensation remains lower. Women of color, immigrant women, and mothers experience even wider pay gaps, with the “motherhood penalty” often pushing them into informal, part-time work. This effect is more pronounced in developing countries, underscoring the critical global challenge of addressing this inequality (UN News, 2022; UN Women)

Governments, employers, and workers’ organizations are increasingly recognizing the urgency of closing gender pay gaps. Many countries are adopting pay transparency measures to address wage disparities, with research indicating their potential to identify and reduce gender inequalities in the labor market. It is essential to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and innovative approaches are necessary to tackle this persistent issue, as highlighted by Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department (ILO, 2022).

In the academia, a recent study reveals (Samaniego et al., 2023) that gender pay equity remains an elusiveness, particularly within STEM fields. Research indicates that high research productivity is strongly associated with men’s compensation, underscoring the need for fair pay analysis. High-performing women in STEM often need to overcompensate in terms of networking, knowledge acquisition, and research hours and outcomes to achieve the same productivity indicators as their male counterparts. A notable example is that -women researchers in STEM with an h-index of 49 made around six thousand dollars less than men researchers in STEM with the same h-index” (Samaniego et al, 2023: 1404).

Researchers urge universities to regularly analyze and rectify potential gender pay inequities related to productivity. STEM professional associations should also conduct such assessments to address the observed gender disparities in pay-for-performance. Universities should continually assess whether high research productivity translates into equitable pay for both men and women to retain talented female scientists and address the scarcity of women in senior STEM positions.


Closing gender pay gaps is more important than ever. (2022, September 21). UN News.

Equal pay for work of equal value. (n.d.). UN Women – Headquarters.

Pay transparency legislation: Implications for employers’ and workers’ organizations. (2022, June 21).–en/index.htm

Samaniego, C., Lindner, P., Kazmi, M. A., Dirr, B. A., Kong, D. T., Jeff-Eke, E., & Spitzmueller, C. (2023). Higher research productivity= more pay? Gender pay-for-productivity inequity across disciplines. Scientometrics, 128(2), 1395-1407.