Female Alphas Earners: An investigation into gendered norms and hierarchy

7 November 2017

Speaker: Dr Vanessa Gash, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, City University of London

Female Alphas Earners: An investigation into gendered norms and hierarchy in Britain 

This paper concerns itself with the relationship between gendered norms and gendered economic inequalities. While there is a considerable literature that identifies gendered economic inequalities in outcome: women work fewer hours in paid employment, have weaker labour market attachment, earn lower wages (Rubery and Grimshaw 2014) and hold jobs of lower occupational worth (Yaish and Stier, 2009), there are increasing efforts to acknowledge differences between women, with class distinctions an important source of female heterogeneity (Warren, 2015; Cooke, 2011). This paper contributes to this tradition in its investigation into female alpha status. Female alphas are defined as those who earn wages in the top 20 per cent of the male and female earned income distribution, the paper finds a rising tendency for women to reach the upper echelons of paid employment, there were just 18% of women in this category in the early 1990s rising to 30% in 2015. The paper examines key predictors of her likelihood to be an alpha earner, including household context, with recent research suggesting that gender identity norms within couples limit women’s economic status (Bertrand et al. 2015). Preliminary results suggest that coupledom has problematic effects for women’s pursuit of high wage employment. The paper uses both the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the UK household panel survey (UKHLS), spanning a period from 1991-2014.