Research

Pay Gap Exists as Early as One Year out of College, New Research Says

Women earn less even when working in the same career field, likely due to sex discrimination

Washington – New research released today by AAUW Educational Foundation shows that just one year out of college, women working full time already earn less than their male colleagues, even when they work in the same field. Ten years after graduation, the pay gap widens.

In the report, Behind the Pay Gap, the AAUW Educational Foundation found that just one year after college graduation, women earn only 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Ten years after graduation, women fall further behind, earning only 69 percent of what men earn. Even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings, the research indicates that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained and is likely due to sex discrimination. Over time, the unexplained portion of the pay gap grows.

The research also shows that ten years after graduation, college-educated men working full time have more authority in the workplace than do their female counterparts. Men are more likely to be involved in hiring and firing, supervising others, and setting pay.

By looking at earnings just one year out of college, you have as level a playing field as possible, said AAUW Director of Research Catherine Hill. These employees don’t have a lot of experience and, for the most part, don’t have care-giving obligations, so you’d expect there to be very little difference in the wages of men and women. But surprisingly, and unfortunately, we find that women already earn less — even when they have the same major and occupation as their male counterparts.

The AAUW research also shows that this pay gap exists despite the fact that women outperform men in school – earning slightly higher GPAs than men in every college major, including science and mathematics.

The persistence of the pay gap among young, college-educated, full-time workers suggests that educational achievement alone will not close the pay gap, Hill said. We need to make workplaces more family-friendly, reduce sex segregation in education and in the workplace, and combat discrimination that continues to hold women back in the workplace.

AAUW has worked successfully to create educational opportunities for women and girls, said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. It’s clear that barriers beyond schooling have prevented true pay equity, and AAUW continues to be a strong advocate for legislative efforts to address this discrimination.

The report also includes other findings:

  • Women who attended highly selective colleges earn less than men from either highly or moderately selective colleges and about the same as men from minimally selective colleges.
  • Ten years after graduation, women are more likely than men to complete some graduate education.
  • Men and women remain segregated by college major, with women making up 79 percent of education majors and men making up 82 percent of engineering majors. This segregation is found in the workplace as well, where women make up 74 percent of the education field and men make up 84 percent of the engineering and architecture fields.

AAUW is dedicated to improving gender equity in the workplace as well as in education, said AAUW Educational Foundation President Barbara O’Connor. The findings from Behind the Pay Gap are telling and disturbing. They show that equity remains an issue for women today.

Members of the media can request a free copy of Behind the Pay Gap by contacting Rebecca Leaf at 202/785-7738 or leafr@aauw.org.

For more information or to schedule an interview with AAUW Director of Research Catherine Hill, please contact Rebecca Leaf, senior media relations associate at 202/785-7738 or leafr@aauw.org; or Ashley Carr, director of communications at 202/785-7745 or carra@aauw.org.