Performance-Support Bias And The Gender Pay Gap Among Stockbrokers

In stock brokerages, women are assigned smaller accounts, which leads to a gender wage gap in performance-based pay.


Stockbrokers are the highest paid sales workers in the United States. For the past 15 years, women make up almost a third of full-time stockbrokers. However, they were making less than 66 cents on the dollar to male stockbrokers, twelve cents less than the national gender wage gap. How is this the gender wage gap so exaggerated in this industry? Compensation for stockbrokers is generally based on the commissions earned on the securities sales they generate. The author postulates that there could be two reasons why there is a gender gap in pay for stockbrokers: women may achieve less or produce a lower volume of sales than men because there are gender differences in sales capacities, i.e., consumers prefer working with male stockbrokers, women are less competitive than men in commission-based sales, or women take on more of the intra-household work resulting in women working less intensely than men. Another reason for the pay gap assumes that women and men have the same abilities for sales, but the management consciously or unconsciously impedes the performance of women by providing different opportunities to sell for men and women. Using data from two of the largest national stockbrokerage firms in the late 1990s, this study analyzes the sources of gender differences in stockbroker sales by examining assignments of sales opportunities.


In stock brokerages, women are assigned inferior accounts, which leads to gender differences in performance-based pay. Women produce equal sales to men when given accounts with equivalent prior sales histories, however.  

  • Male stockbrokers’ salaries (which are based on commissions) were 18 to 20% higher than female stockbrokers’ salaries, on average.
  • Women were less likely than men to receive transferred accounts, and women who did were less likely to receive those with higher commissions. At one of the brokerage firms, women are significantly less likely to receive transferred assets than men. Only 54.8% of women received the transfers, compared to 59.3% of men.
  • Men and women had the same sales levels when assigned transferred accounts with equivalent prior sales history. There were no gender differences in sales capacities arising from either historic difference in opportunities, consumer discrimination, or in selection into the job among stockbrokers.

Stockbroker management provided different sales opportunities for male and female stockbrokers, which impeded the sales performance of women.


This study examined data from the 1990s from two large, national full-service retail brokerages that sell financial products to individual investors. Women accounted for a small minority (11.2 and 13.8%) of brokers at both organizations. The data included 15,077 male stockbrokers and 2,129 female stockbrokers. The study analyzed brokers’ employment history, gender, employment since licensure, account transfers, and commissions.

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