NACE Logo NACE Center Logo
National Association of Colleges and Employers NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition®
mobile menu
  • New Study Reveals Women Lag Men in Pay Beginning at the Outset of Their Careers

    BETHLEHEM, PA—The gap in pay between men and women begins at the start of their career, according to a new study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    “Results from NACE’s First Destinations Survey for the Class of 2020 reveal that the salary gap between men and women begins as graduates exit college for the world of work, with women earning an average salary of $52,266 compared to an average salary of $64,022 for men,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director. (See Figure 1.)

    “That gap—with women earning approximately 82% of what men do—is in line with the figure the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported as the pay difference between men and women. Consequently, our study dispels the myth that the gender pay gap results from women prioritizing family over career and thus begins later,” he adds. “We’re seeing the disparity right at the beginning of a woman’s career.”

    The disparity is detailed in Gender and Pay Inequity, a special brief based on the Class of 2020 data.

    The brief also addresses the notion that differences in or choices of academic major could explain the pay gap.

    “That’s also a misconception,” says VanDerziel. “What we found is that academic major accounts for some but not all of the disparity. Moreover, one has to consider whether women choose lower-paying majors or whether certain majors are lower paying because women dominate. There is a compelling case that gender discrimination underlies the gap.”

    VanDerziel says there are steps every organization should take to work toward pay equity.

    “First, standardize pay and eliminate the discretion to set salaries for new hires,” he says.

    “And, second, conduct an annual pay-equity analysis to determine if there are salary differentials correlated to gender or race/ethnicity, and, if so, take immediate action where needed.”

    Figure 1: Average starting salary by gender

    Figure 1

    Average starting salary for bachelor’s degree graduates from the Class of 2020.
    Source: Gender and Pay Inequity, National Association of Colleges and Employers.

    About the Report: Gender and Pay Inequity is based on results from the NACE’s First-Destination Survey for the Class of 2020, the seventh in a series that began with the college Class of 2014.

    The annual survey looks at the outcomes of students within six months of graduation. The academic year for the Class of 2020 ran July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020. The survey for the Class of 2020 was conducted through individual colleges and universities nationwide, which then reported their results to NACE. The schools conducted the survey from graduation through December 30, 2020, and reported their data to NACE from January 6 through April 30, 2021. All data in the report are as of December 30, 2020.

    In total, NACE received reports from 342 colleges and universities; they reported outcomes for their graduating classes. This totaled more than 757,000 students in four degree programs—associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral-level programs. Data presented in this release are for bachelor’s degree graduates.

    The Class of 2020 report, along with an interactive dashboard and two special briefs, is available free to the public on the NACE website. Results for previous classes can also be accessed there.

    About NACE: Established in 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the only professional association in the United States that connects more than 9,800 college career services professionals, more than 3,300 university relations and recruiting professionals, and more than 300 business solution providers that serve this community.

    NACE is the premier source of market research on career readiness and employment of recent college graduates. NACE forecasts hiring and trends in the job market; tracks salaries, recruiting and hiring practices, and student attitudes and outcomes; and identifies best practices and benchmarks.

    NACE offers its members unparalleled research, networking and professional development opportunities, guidance on standards and ethics, and advocacy on key issues. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.