For women, the pay gap worsens 10 years after college

On the Job

May 02, 2007|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Columnist

Here's a news flash: Women get paid less than men.

OK, so that's not anything new.

But even just a year out of college, women earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts.

Ten years after graduation, the pay gap gets worse with women earning 69 percent of what men earn, according to a new study by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

The group analyzed two surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. The studies provide nationally representative information on the lives of two groups of college students. One study followed about 9,000 bachelor's degree graduates from 1992-1993 for 10 years after college. The second examined the 10,000 four-year degree recipients of the 1999-2000 class for a year.

"These pay differences that appear early in our careers are so important because pay wages and job offers are based on your previous earnings," says Catherine Hill, AAUW's director of research. "Over time, they become cemented, and the differences continue to grow."

The study found that many women major in subjects that traditionally pay less, such as education, but the pay gap exists among men and women who concentrate in the same area, though the size of the gap varies. In education, for instance, women earn 5 percent less than their male colleagues in the first year after graduation.

"Women are making the investment, but they're not getting the return," Hill says.

Accounting for hours, occupation, parenthood and other factors, AAUW found that one-quarter of the wage disparity is unexplainable and may be because of discrimination.

The study suggests several ways to close the pay disparity, including encouraging women to enter careers in traditionally male-dominated and higher-paying occupations such as mathematics and science; creating awareness among women to negotiate for better pay; and promoting family-friendly policies in the workplace.

AAUW also provides grants on college campuses to promote pay equity and economic security for women.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore started a Web-based program called "Women Helping Women Succeed," where students can sign up for e-courses on topics such as leadership, mentorship and networking.

The project, with a $5,000 grant from AAUW, was launched this year.

Sheila Greenwood, a diversity manager in human resource services at the university, says the purpose of the program is to increase awareness of educational and career issues women are facing, including pay disparity.

Female students must have such knowledge "to deal with the issue," Greenwood says. "We have to be more educated in what we can do, and professions that we're not going into as females."

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