The college degree choices all have a fixed price. Whether you are male or female you will pay the same amount to attend college. This question is not about the upfront cost of college rather the hidden cost once both sexes have started work as graduates. The gender pay gap is still going strong and the big question is: Why?
It is not all about discrimination but the fact that any still exists is disturbing. Female students ought to be aware of the factors that lead to lower paid vocations as well as the gender differentiations that some employers are still making. I turn to a thoroughly researched report by The American Association of University Women to introduce one of the key issues. The report is entitled Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year After College Graduation:
Men are more likely than women to major in fields like engineering and computer science, which typically lead to higher-paying jobs. Women are more likely than men to major in fields like education and the social sciences, which typically lead to lower-paying jobs (p.2, AAUW 2012)
‘Jobs primarily held by men tend to pay more than jobs primarily held by women’ so you have jobs in engineering, business and management, computer and physical science paying out more than jobs in health care fields, business support, administration, and teaching. So, as a woman are we making a conscious decision when we select a profession to accept a lower salary one year after graduation than our male counterparts?
The answer is that in part yes this has a bearing. Women on average also work fewer hours than men because of the sectors they work in. There are strong factors having a bearing on pay like occupation, hours worked and economic sectors. There are decisions that women can make to try and even up that pay gap. Of course if you are pursuing the vocation/job of your dreams then money is not at the fore-front of your mind. Do keep in mind that women are still paying the same amount for their major – there is no pay gap at college level!
And, that is still only part of the story. As you may have expected there is still an unexplained portion of the pay gap that needs addressing. I turn again to the indepth report produced by AAUW and their summary of research completed:
Regression analysis allows us to analyse the effect of multiple factors on earnings at the same time. Controlling for occupation, college major, hours worked per week, and many other factors all at once, we found that college-educated women working full time were paid an unexplained 7 percent less than their male peers were paid one year out of college. (p.4, AUUW 2012)
This strongly suggests that gender discrimination is still a problem in the workplace. It is such a hard factor to measure and prove. The only way we are even aware that it still exists is by ruling out all other reasoning behind pay differences first. One of the strongest indicators is the amount of debt women are left with after the same time has passed since finishing college as their male counterparts. They each take out the same loans but because women are paid less than men they end up paying back more.
This equates to more stress, a heavier financial burden and greater interest which keeps adding to the initial purchase price of that college degree years after it has been completed. It is important to recognise the pay gap as a problem and remember that occupational choices alone do not explain it. While it will not stop women from going to college it should make them a little savvier when they are choosing their first employer.
Do you know who you are planning to work for? Can you get hold of reports or talk to existing employees about pay? The choices women make could empower them to get fair pay, avoid higher loan repayments and steer clear of firms that discriminate between men and women. They do not hold up a neon sign so it is not an easy research path to take but if you future employer has a transparent pay system then you are far less likely to encounter discrimination.
Why pay more for a college degree you worked equally as hard to get?
Women experience the consequences of the pay gap from their very first paycheck to their very last Social Security check. Fifty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it is surprising that women continue to be paid less than men are paid, even when they make the same choices (p.8, AAUW 2012)
The real power for change lies in the hands of employers, public policy makers and individuals. Perhaps, the best way to combat it is major in politics and increase female representation at the decision making end of the country! Just a thought!
Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation (2012). The American Association of University Women (AAUW). Accessed 10/2/14. Available online: