In an annual open letter written with her husband Bill, Melinda Gates has highlighted the continuing pay gap between men and women.
The majority of the difference comes from the amount of unpaid work that women do compared to men, reports the Washington Post, and this could have some unforeseen consequences.
Researchers have discovered that women who have never lived with a male partner make more money than women who have – what they call the ‘lesbian wage premium’.
Marieka Klawitter, professor of public policy at the University of Washington, examined 29 studies on wages and sexual orientation and found that lesbians earned on average nine per cent more than heterosexual women.
Another study from the University of Nevada found that lesbians who had previously lived with male partners made 20 per cent less than those who never had.
She adjusted her results based on a number of other influential factors and concluded lesbians simply had more education and work experience than the general female population.
Why this is isn’t clear – the researchers have suggested it could be that single, straight women invest less in education and job training if they anticipate being mothers in the future.
However, the gender dynamics mentioned by Mrs Gates could also play a part. A woman married to a man could be struggling with the added workload of domestic, unpaid chores, causing her career to suffer.
Marieka Klawitter said:
A woman in a heterosexual relationship may not work because the man’s salary is higher, or paying for child care costs more than she earns.
This all snowballs into: Other women stay home – should I?
So it seems like the real reason behind the ‘lesbian wage premium’ lies in the persistent and deep rooted attitudes towards women in the work place – lesbians are perceived as being similar in their life goals and work habits to men, so get paid more in-line with male wages.