August 03, 2016 | By NACE Staff
Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
It’s almost a certainty that female college students going through the career exploration and hiring processes will encounter the gender pay gap.
“There is no silver bullet choice of college major or professional field where the gender pay gap does not exist,” says Kevin Miller, senior researcher at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). “It exists across essentially all occupations in any given year.”
More disturbing is the fact that the gender pay gap is actually larger for college graduates and those with advanced degrees than among workers without college degrees.
“A college degree does usually lead to higher earnings,” Miller notes, “but women who graduate from college are still employed in a work force where discrimination and other factors result in a gap with men.”
The gender pay gap is a multifaceted problem, with many factors contributing. The gender pay gap statistic most frequently cited—that women earn 79 percent of what men do, among full-time year-round workers—is a summary of the impact of all of these factors on American women in the work force, Miller explains.
He points to several of the primary factors that contribute to the gender pay gap, such as:
“It's important to point out, though, that educational and career choices are influenced by gender norms,” Miller points out. “Ninety-seven percent of child care workers are women and 96 percent of truck drivers are men, and truck drivers make significantly more than child care workers, on average.”
Women who choose to enter male-dominated fields do tend to earn more.
“But research also shows that when women enter a field in large numbers, average pay—even for men—drops as the field is perceived to be less prestigious,” Miller says.
He explains that the factors above are tied up with gender norms and roles that change over time, but that change happens slowly. And these factors don’t account for all of the gap.
Social scientists—including the staff of AAUW—have attempted to estimate the contributions of the specific factors above to the gender pay gap. Miller explains that when statistically controlling for all of the factors that are typically included in economic or educational surveys—age, race, education level of one's parents, college major, industry, occupation, and so on—there remains some gap that is still associated with gender.
“This is what some refer to as the ‘unexplained’ gender pay gap, which some believe is the result of discrimination,” Miller says. “The estimates of this gap are smaller than the total gender pay gap, but are still significant. Among college graduates, AAUW estimates that, one year after college graduation, after controlling for numerous variables, women are still paid 7 percent less than similar men.”
Sarah Spencer, AAUW program associate, offers some recommendations for career services practitioners to incorporate when counseling students about navigating the hiring process:
In addition to these recommendations, AAUW offers several resources to help you and your students learn about and address the gender pay gap, including an annual research report titled The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap and salary negotiation workshops.
Overall unemployment rate
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Unemployment rate, bachelor’s degree grads age 20 – 24
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average starting salary, Class of 2020 bachelor’s degree graduate
Summer 2021 Salary Survey
Increase in projected hiring, Class of 2021 versus Class of 2020
Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update