The impact of female employment on male salaries and careers: evidence from the English banking industry, 1890–1941


  • Andrew Seltzer

    1. Royal Holloway, University of London
    2. Centre for Economic History, Australian National University
    3. Institute for Compensation Studies, Cornell University
    4. IZA
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  • I wish to thank the staff of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Archive in Edinburgh and London (Derek Hammond, Laura Yeoman, Jenny Mountain, Ruth Reed, Alison Turton, Lucy Wright, and particularly Philip Winterbottom) for their enormous help with the records used in this article. I also want to thank three anonymous referees, Jeff Frank, Claudia Goldin, Elyce Rotella, participants at the Economic History Association meeting in Boston, and participants at seminars at London School of Economics, Lund University, and Royal Holloway, University of London for comments on an earlier draft. I acknowledge research funds from the Royal Holloway Faculty of History and Social Sciences. Remaining errors are mine alone.


The late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British labour market experienced an influx of female clerical workers. Employers argued that female employment increased opportunities for men to advance; however, most male clerks regarded this expansion of the labour supply as a threat to their pay and status. This article examines the effects of female employment on male clerks using data from Williams Deacon's Bank covering a period 25 years prior to and 25 years subsequent to the initial employment of women. It is shown that, within position, women were substitutes for younger men, but not for senior men. In addition, the employment of women in routine positions allowed the bank to expand its branch network, creating new higher-level positions, which were almost always filled by men.