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Female College Graduates and the gender pay gap April 23, 2007

Posted by Liz in careerwomen, gender, the pay gap.

            As a junior who is going to be looking for a real-life job in the not-so-distant future, I was pretty disheartened when I read the article from The Financial Times posted on msnbc.com entitled “Stark Pay Gap for US Women Graduates.” The article discusses a report released last Monday which states that, one year after graduating college, women make 80% of what their male counterparts earn. Ten years after graduating, women will earn 69% of what men earn, according to the report. The study, “Behind the Pay Gap,” used data from the U.S. Department of Education and analyzed 9,000 college graduates from 1992-93 and over 10,000 from 1999-2000. If you want to see the actual report, you have to fill out an online request form.

The 80% statistic is especially alarming given the fact that, right out of college, most men and women should be the least likely to exhibit a gender-induced pay gap. Recent graduates, regardless of gender, all tend to emerge from college with limited work experience, and few to no familial obligations. The discrepancy can be partially attributed to the fact that men are often drawn to majors such as engineering and economics, which tend to have more lucrative post-college employment opportunities, while women tend to choose fields of concentration such as education and psychology which yield lower-paying post-graduation jobs. BUT, “If a woman and a man make the same choices, will they receive the same pay?” the study asks. “The answer is no. “These unexplained gaps are evidence of discrimination, which remains a serious problem for women in the work force.” The study also states that “Women who attended highly selective colleges earn less than men from either highly or moderately selective colleges and about the same as men from minimally selective colleges.”

This morning in Washington, Congress opened a hearing on the issue of the pay gap between men and women. The authors of “Behind the Pay Gap” are testifying before congress in hopes that legislation will be created that could eliminate the gap. Some solutions offered by the study include paid paternity leaves and having universities encourage women to choose majors in engineering and math. It will be interesting to see this story unfold, and if legislative measures will actually be taken to rid America of this archaic form of discrimination.



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