Does classroom performance translate to the workplace for women?

If women are outperforming men in the classroom, why is the “gender wage gap” still prevalent?

There have been several studies published within the last decade pointing to trends within high schools and universities: that female students consistently outperform their male counterparts. A number of reasons explain these results, including the passage of Equal Opportunity Laws and societal norms that stigmatize men for studying or reading (therefore hindering them from studying, leading to poorer test results).


Despite the clear line between men and women at schools, there continues to be a distinct gap in the workforce between men and women, especially in higher-ranking positions. Although the gender wage gap has narrowed since the 1970s, white women working full-time were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid. The average percent worsens by demographic (ex. Asian, Hispanic, and African-American). When it comes to leadership roles, men continue to make up the majority of executive positions. For example, there continues to be only 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, making up under 5 percent of the total list. Some industries, such as the nonprofit industry, women and men have around the same percentage of CEOs. However, female CEOs earn far less.

If women are outperforming men in the classroom, why is the “gender wage gap” still prevalent? Obviously, classroom rankings are not (and should not be) the only standard for which recruiters should judge a job application. But it does prove there are significant reasons, other than educational disparities, that cause women to earn lower wages or work in environments that do not offer promotions often.


Women are socialized into being society’s peace-holders. We are socialized into pleasing those around us and into keeping quiet. While engendering empathy and emotional intelligence, these are not often qualities that prepare one for climbing the ladder in the workforce nor fiercely negotiating a higher salary. There are many aspects of job searching and career planning that involve confidence: the confidence to apply to higher-level positions or negotiate salaries or even to present innovative ideas. Such confidence and the inability to hear “no” are skills that are expected of men, and often discouraged among women.

Education can be an important and effective tool in reducing the still prevalent gender wage gap. Providing opportunities and hiring more women can also aid in the process. In my opinion, it is equally important to allow women to voice their opinions in confident manners. These are skills necessary in the workplace and are skills that are naturally taught and expected of men.

Empowering women often means changing our mindsets and inherent feelings about how a woman looks or acts. Maybe then we will more often see the success of women in the classroom mirrored in workplace successes as well.