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While sexism and inherent bias continue to hold women back at work, new research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that several factors beyond discrimination contribute to the glass ceiling.

In the working paper, The Glass Ceiling, Chicago Booth Professor Marianne Bertrand reviews the extensive literature surrounding the glass ceiling, including her own work, and finds three key reasons why the glass ceiling persists in excluding women from top-paying jobs.

      • Women with college degrees often choose to work in fields that offer lower incomes.“Although women have surpassed men in educational attainment, they are vastly underrepresented in top-paying jobs,” she says.


      • Women are more risk-averse than men. According to Bertrand’s research, “the willingness to take risks helps employees compete for higher paying jobs and negotiate higher salaries. Whether men and women are born with different attitudes toward risk or the differences are taught, understanding the role of nature versus nurture is key to closing the gap.”


      • The demands for child care, housework and other life chores outside of work fall more heavily on women than on men.“Higher paying occupations are more inflexible and require more time commitment,” Bertrand says.

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