Skip to site content

Gender Pay Gap Exists A Year Out of College, Study Finds

One year out of college, women working full time earn less than their male colleagues, and the pay gap widens 10 years after graduation, according to a study on gender and pay.

Research by the Association of University Women Educational Foundation found that working women a year out of college earn 80 percent as much as males. Ten years after graduating, women fall even farther behind, earning 69 percent as much as men.

Adjusting for factors like hours worked, occupation and children, all contributors to lower wages, there still is a pay gap between men and women. Researchers said about one fourth of the difference is related to gender, attributing the portion of the pay gap not explained by other factors to gender discrimination.

A year out of college, when most working people are just beginning their careers, have little experience and typically don’t have children, the study said, there should be a level playing field. But, said researcher Catherine Hill, women a year out of college already earn less, even when they have the same occupation as their male counterparts.

That is despite the fact that women outperform men in schools, earning slightly higher GPAs in every college major, including math and science.

Motherhood and fatherhood affect careers differently. Mothers are more likely than fathers to work part time, take leave or take a break from the work force. On average, mothers earn less than women without children, and both groups earn less than men.

Even if a woman makes the same career choices as a man, she will not receive the same pay. Women earn about 5 percent less than males doing the same job.

Ten years out of college, the portion of the pay gap that remains unexplained except for gender increases to 12 percent, suggesting that discrimination grows worse over time or that gender discrimination has a cumulative effect.

Barbara O’Connor, president of the AAUW Educational Foundation, called the findings “telling and disturbing.”

“They show that equity remains an issue for women today,” she said.

Even though women earn less than men in the same occupation, the study found, the biggest factor in the gender-pay gap is segregation in education and the workplace. Women make up 79 percent of education majors, while 82 percent of engineering majors are men.

Recommendations include promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in ways that appeal to girls and women, encouraging girls to take advanced courses in mathematics and for women to negotiate for better jobs and pay, supporting mothers in the workplace and ending gender discrimination.

The report endorsed legislation before Congress to expand the scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and improve protections for those who attempt to use it.

The Fair Pay Act, for example, would eliminate the “gag rule” on wage disclosure, prohibiting employers from punishing employees who discuss their wages with a co-worker.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require that employers prove that pay differences between women and men are caused by something other than sex, as opposed to simply demonstrating that the difference is not the result of discrimination.

“Rules and procedures that force employers to look carefully at pay differences and monitor inequities are the key to overcoming gender equities in the workplace,” the report said.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.