By now, most of us are well aware that there is a gender gap in both pay and leadership representation. We also know that the gap is different depending on the industry or job role. So, how are women faring in learning and development?

Is There a Gap?

It’s difficult to find gender data specific to learning and development (L&D), likely because the function is often housed in departments like human resources and exists across industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 58.5 percent of training managers are women, compared with just under 40 percent across functions. On the other hand, the eLearning Guild’s 2018 e-learning salary and compensation report found a global e-learning gender pay gap of 10 percent and a U.S. gender gap of 13 percent. Women entering e-learning roles in their 20s start with a 6 percent pay gap, which widens to 20 percent at age 60 and above. Additionally, the average male bonus was more than double the average female bonus, the average male raise was 0.5 percent higher, and the difference in average total compensation was 16 percent. These data are despite the fact that on average, women in this sample had achieved a higher level of education.

However, we do know that, more broadly, education is one of the few industries where women are better represented in leadership roles. LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum’s 2017 “Global Gender Gap Report” found that of the 12 industries analyzed in the study, education was one of three in which at least 40 percent of leadership roles were held by women. Unfortunately, the report notes, “the Education sector has stagnated at the 40% leadership hiring mark,” while overall, women make up 59 percent of all career levels in education organizations.

“While labor numbers clearly show that women are well represented within the field,” writes Serafim Mendonca, vice president of corporate development for Clarity Consultants, “there are large disparities between gender groups as job responsibilities increase. The more senior the position, the less women are represented.”

A recent survey by HR software company Namely found that female entry-level HR professionals make almost 11 percent less than their male peers, and the gender pay gap widens around the age of 45. In industrial and organizational psychology, another field that’s closely tied to L&D, men report an average income that’s 17.7 percent higher than women. More positively, HR is the industry with the greatest percentage of women in management positions (74.2 percent).

Leading as a Woman in L&D

Why is education, including corporate training, an appealing field for women? A survey by Fairygodboss found that education and human resources were in the top five departments for women based on job satisfaction. Fairygodboss CEO Georgene Huang wrote in Forbes that there were several possible reasons that women tend to enjoy working in HR, including being more likely to experience gender equality (or near gender equality), compensation and more female role models.

Some female training leaders cite being able to help people grow and succeed, collaborate, and develop relationships as some of the things they enjoy about their work. “I love to see people grow into their full potential, [and] learning and development gives me the platform to contribute to their growth,” says Dr. Kristal Walker, director of professional development for Guitar Center.

“I believe women are natural-born leaders,” says Maria Melfa, co-founder and CEO of The Training Associates. “Women are natural collaborators and connectors, [and] these are also the skills that are critical to continued learning and effective training outcomes.”

In fact, 2016 Gallup research found that, broadly speaking, women outrank men on accepting and empathizing with others and recognizing and developing people’s potential – key skills for training professionals. While researchers noted that differences are greater between individuals of the same gender than they are between genders, these findings can provide an explanation regarding why women tend to be attracted to – and excel in – learning and development roles.

Women in L&D departments may also have an advantage when it comes to developing leadership skills. Recent Training Industry research found that female employees in traditionally female industries or departments, like L&D, sometimes have some advantages when it comes to leadership development. For example, while men were more likely to receive training in the key leadership skill of strategy in traditionally male (like technology) and traditionally “equal” fields (like government) and in negotiation in traditionally male fields, women and men were equally likely to receive training in those skills in traditionally female fields. Learning leaders in particular need strong strategy and negotiation skills, as influencing/negotiating and strategic thinking are key competencies exhibited by high-performing training managers.

In her book “Own It: The Power of Women at Work,” Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest and owner of Ellevate Network, wrote, “Increasingly, I’ve recognized that we women love to learn.” Perhaps that love of learning – and of teaching and managing learning – will help women break through the glass ceiling in the training industry.

March was Women’s Leadership Month at Check out our research report “Women’s Access to Leadership Development: A Tale of Two Experiences” by clicking here, watch our webinar recording, listening to this podcast episode or read the other great articles we published this month on developing women leaders: