There are important drivers of occupational segregation that are not related to either discrimination or a gendered division of labour. These newer drivers are strong enough to explain most of the gender differences in tertiary education attainment. These gender differences in tertiary attainment and the drivers behind them will be important determinates of the future occupational segregation and entry into male dominated professions.
An important driver of occupational segregation is modern technological trends ranging from ICT to the emergence of a larger service sectors that have worked to the comparative advantage of women. Many more service jobs and fewer jobs based on brawn have increased the returns to women of working more in the market. In addition, a range of personality traits and skills work to the advantage of women in some occupations more than others.
Another driver of occupational segregation is women have more occupation choices than men because of different personality traits and superior verbal and readings skills. The superior verbal and reading skills of teenage girls are the equivalent of ½ a year’s extra schooling (OECD 2012). Teenage girls also score higher on personality traits such as persistence. Teenage boys have many more behavioural problems. Boys do especially poorly in broken families (Bertrand and Pan 2013).
Jacob (2002) found that higher non-cognitive skills and larger college premiums for women accounted for 90 percent of the gender gap in higher education. Becker, Hubbard and Murphy (2010) found that differences in the costs of college for women and men are primarily due to differences in the distributions of non-cognitive skills and explain most of the world-wide overtaking of men by women in higher education.
About 64% of recent New Zealand graduates were women but they have personality traits and verbal and reading skills that will be rewarded more in interactive professions and occupations. Women are pursuing these comparative advantages and maximising the rewards on their skills and natural talents. These differences in skills and talents will lead to different occupational and sub-occupational distributions and mixes as compared to men despite any differences arising from the gendered division of labour and effort and costs of care giving.
There are fewer women in STEM occupations because they have better options elsewhere to reward both their mathematical and scientific talents and their superior verbal and reading skills.
The wage premium for STEM occupations for women is much smaller because they have options elsewhere that reward all of their skills, not just their STEM related talents. Young women and well as young men do equally will in the STEM prerequisites. Women have more options is other higher power occupations that make full use of their more diverse talents.
Occupational segregation in the future in part will be driven the same factors behind much higher female tertiary educational attainment. Superior verbal and readings skills and greater persistence and self-organisation among women will make some occupations more rewarding for them as compared to males who have, on average, fewer of these innate talents.