Even Women Who Graduate From Harvard Experience A Wage Gap

CREDIT: AP/Steven Senne

Asian advocacy groups are criticizing a coalition of Asian advocacy groups for their discrimination complaint against Harvard University, which advocates eliminating race as a factor in college admissions.

Women who graduate from the country’s top Ivy League school will still experience a wage gap in their first job, according to a survey of this year’s graduates.

Harvard University’s campus paper The Crimson conducted an annual survey of the graduating class of 2014, with responses from about half the students. The median starting salary for all students is between $50,000 and $69,999, with 11 percent making more than $90,000. But 19 percent of male graduates said they will be making that high-end salary, compared to just 4 percent of female grads. Generally women are more likely to be making salaries at the lower end of the scale and even more likely to be taking unpaid jobs:

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CREDIT: The Harvard Crimson

Part of the difference in pay is that the women are more likely to go into fields that pay less. They were twice as likely to pick a job in public service or nonprofits and more likely to end up in education. Nonprofit work pays less than $45,000 at the median, while K-12 teachers make about $53,000. Meanwhile, men were more than twice as likely to go into finance and nearly twice as likely to go into technology or engineering. Financial analysts make nearly $77,000 at the median and engineers make about $90,000. An equal share of both genders went into consulting.

Yet even women who picked the high-paying fields are getting lower starting salaries. The Crimson notes that a “plurality” of women going into technology or engineering reported that they’ll make between $50,000 and $69,999, but a plurality of men going into those fields will make between $90,000 and $109,999. About 30 percent of the men going into finance are going to be making $90,000 ore more, but not a single woman entering that field will make that much.

Despite their Ivy League education, these women can’t escape a wage gap that dogs all graduates. A 2012 study from AAUW found that women one year out of college were making just 82 percent of what their male peers were making. Even when the researchers took colleges, majors, grades, industry, occupation, hours, and other factors into account, a third of the gap remained unexplained. The problem follows them even if they get more degrees, as the average woman will make less than the average man at every educational level.

And just as the women who choose the lucrative technology and finance industries still made less, all women will get lower pay no matter what industry they choose and in nearly every job they pick.

The difference in pay between male and female graduates is particularly galling because it likely comes before women start having to make choices between family and career that contribute to the overall wage gap. Indeed, women’s different work histories, or the fact that they are more likely to go part time or take time off to care for family members, accounts for about 10 percent of the overall wage gap. But that explanation can only get us so far. When economists looked at a wide variety of factors that could cause it, they still couldn’t explain more than 40 percent of it. It may just be bias that creates the leftover gap.