Economy

People Say The Wage Gap Exists Because Women Don’t Pick High-Paying Jobs. Here’s Proof They’re Wrong

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The gender wage gap — the fact that the average American woman working full time, year round makes 78 percent of what a man will make doing the same — is the result of many factors. Some claim that these factors alone make up for the difference: they say women earn less because they choose lower-paying jobs, take breaks from work to care for children, and don’t ask for more money or responsibility.

But it can’t be explained away by saying women just don’t have the right experience or ambition for the highest-paying jobs. Bloomberg Businessweek looked at nearly 10,000 of this year’s male and female MBA graduates, who are usually young and childless, ambitious, and all of whom had a full-time job lined up. Despite the fact that this weeds out those have different work experience, seek flexibility in order to care for children, want part-time jobs, or just don’t aim for the top, women got starting salaries that were almost $15,000 less than those for men.

While the analysis finds that women are more likely to go into lower paying fields, even within industries they’ll be paid less. In 17 of 22 industries, women were offered less starting money than men. In finance, for example, women’s salaries were $22,000 lower, while they were $12,300 lower in tech and $11,500 in consulting.

This problem dogs all female graduates, not just those leaving business programs. Women who graduate college will get lower starting salaries than men in their first year even when their schools, grades, majors, jobs, and hours worked are taken into account. At any education level, a man will make more than a woman. He’ll also make more in any industry — including female-dominated ones — and virtually every job. Even women with higher high school GPAs, who should be making more, will earn less than men with lower grades.

Some of women’s choices certainly do play a role in the wage gap, a big one being the fact that they are much more likely to interrupt their careers to care for children than men. But only about 10 percent of the gap between women’s and men’s wages can be explained by different work histories, or in other words, career interruptions. Even young, childless women make less than their male peers. In fact, many studies of the wage gap have come up with an “unexplained” portion, which is where bias may exist.

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