If the gender inequality in the labor market wasn’t enough, it turns out that women are even paid less when selling products online.
According to a study published in Science Advances, female sellers received a smaller number of bids and lower prices than men when selling the exact same product. On average, women received 20 percent less when selling new products and 3 percent less when selling used products.
The analysis was conducted on a database containing 630,000 eBay auctions of the 420 most popular products by private sellers between 2009 and 2012. The results were also confirmed by a separate one-off test showing that people are willing to pay less for the same value gift cards when sold by women instead of men.
The gift card experiment asked people to bid for a $100 Amazon voucher either sold by “Alison” or by “Brad.” The bids were higher when “Brad” was selling it than when “Alison” was selling it ($87.42 versus $83.34).
The research was conducted by Dr. Tamar Kricheli-Katz and Dr. Tali Regev from Tel Aviv University, and they don’t believe it comes from any conscious decision, as both male and female buyers appeared to treat women sellers in the same way.
"We actually think that most of it is unconscious," Dr. Kricheli-Katz said in a statement. "The fact is that most of us have biases. We hold them unconsciously, and it makes it difficult to change."
The disparity between men and women is not constant on all product categories. Women make about 16 percent more than men when selling toys and surprisingly 20 percent more when selling pet food. But it’s of small consolation. Even when selling the same money-value gift cards, women did worse than men, obtaining 6.8 percent less, on average. This result is consistent with the Alison and Brad experiment conducted by the researchers.
Although eBay doesn’t provide buyers with the gender identity of the sellers, the authors suggest that the gender could be guessed by other products on sale by the same users and typically associated with one gender (high heel shoes, purses, etc.). The authors suspect that marketplaces where the sex of the vendors is known might have even higher disparities.
“As a policy, eBay does not explicitly state the gender of its users. Nevertheless, men and women are easily gender-categorized by other users. We suspect that even greater divergences are present in other product markets where gender is always known,” they wrote in their paper.