Gender wage gap still dogs women, report says

Monday, October 29th, 2012 By

Mind the Gap

The gender wage gap has been around for so long it’s like an old habit that’s hard to break. Image: sarahstierch/Flickr/CC BY

A new report says that, despite the growing workforce, double standards still exist in terms of when women are paid vs. their male counterparts. Furthermore, the report says, the gender wage gap is evident almost immediately after graduation from college, and follows professional women throughout their entire careers.

Gender wage gap still exists

More women attend college than men, and they tend to graduate with higher grade points. Still, says a new report from the American Association of University Women, one year after graduation they earn an average of only about 82 percent of what men earn with the same level of education. The report found a similar disparity in nearly every major occupation it tracked.

The report found that the average woman made about $35,296 a year after graduating, while the average man was paid an around $42,918.

The same discrepancy was in display even when men and women have the same major. In engineering, technology, computer science and social sciences fields — fields traditionally dominated by men — women earned 77 to 88 cents for every dollar earned by men. Men who graduated with business majors earned just over $45,000 a year after graduation. Women, by contrast, made just over $38,000.

Healthcare and educational professions are among the rare exceptions of professions in which women and men earn about equally.

Factors women have some control over

Some of those discrepancies can be attributed to the fact that more men choose to go into higher-paying careers than women, notes the report. Some of the gap is also likely due to the fact that many women drop out of, or reduce their involvement in, the work force in order to have children.

The AAUW concluded that, of the overall 18 percent disparity in gender pay rates, about 6.6 percent of that remains “unexplained.”

Researchers Christianne Corbett and Catherine Hill wrote:

“This pay gap is not merely the result of women’s choices.”

Methodology of the study

For that reason, the AAUW chose to look at the pay differences in those who are fresh out of college and just embarking on their professional lives.

The report used data on about 15,000 people, collected for a Department of Education survey. The participating students graduated from college in 2008, and their pay data was from the year 2009.

Gap follows women through careers

Corbett and Hill went onto to write that the gender gap effect follows women their entire careers, since they start out on a lower playing field than men do:

“Lower earnings have an immediate effect after college, setting into motion a chain of disparities that will follow women throughout their careers.”

An unfair habit

The report concludes that employers and the government need to act to reverse this trend, that has become so commonplace it seems to be normal. It is still, however, unfair.

The gap is especially unfair when one considers that women are burdened with the same student loan debt when they leave college as men are, yet they earn less, so they are paying a higher percentage of their income to repay those loans.

Sources

Business Week
Chicago Tribune
Washington Post

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