(The following excerpt from The Pay Gap For Women Starts At Graduation by Kimberly Weisul recently appeared on slate.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
Nationally, women make just 77 cents for every dollar made by men. But it’s long been unclear just why this pay gap persists. Do women make less than men because they choose to go into less lucrative professions and work fewer hours, or do they make less because they’re discriminated against no matter which field they choose and how hard they work?
New data from Harvard University’s most recent graduating class suggests that the answer to that crucial question is yes and yes. Women choose fields that don’t pay as well, but even within highly paid fields such as finance and engineering, they get paid less than men.
The fact that a distinct pay gap is evident right out of undergraduate school is more than a little sobering. At the age of 21 or 22, it’s extremely unlikely that the male graduates had somehow acquired relevant experience that merits above-average pay, or that the women are working fewer hours to accommodate their families.
The survey found that men were about twice as likely to choose finance, technology, or engineering—all highly paid fields—for their first jobs. Eleven percent of women chose engineering or technology, versus 19 percent of men. Ten percent of women chose finance, compared with 24 percent of men.
Women were twice as likely to choose public service or not-for-profits, which don’t pay as well. Equal numbers of men and women chose consulting.
Across all fields, 19 percent of men said they would be making $90,000 or more after graduation, compared with 4 percent of women. It’s easy to look at that stat and say, OK, that’s because there are more guys in banking, engineering, and tech.
But here’s the thing: The survey says “a plurality” of women in technology and engineering said they will be making between $50,000 and $69,999. The guys in the same field? A plurality said they would be making between $90,000 and $109,999. At the low end, that’s an 80 percent difference. But 80 percent is ridiculous. At the high end it’s 57 percent. That’s insane, too.