Education Isn't Such A 'Great equaliser' After All


Photo: AAUW

Education activists have long touted a high school diploma and college degree as the “great equaliser” among American workers.Try telling that to female college graduates. 

According to a recent analysis of new graduate earnings, the American Association of University Women found millennial women earn just 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts take home. 

That’s just five cents higher than the national average.

“In this election, jobs and the economy are top priorities. For women, it’s not just about getting a job; it’s about getting fair and honest pay,” AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman said in a statement. “Graduating to a pay gap paints a disturbing picture for college-educated women who are losing out financially, from their first paycheck to their last Social Security check.” 

In AAUW’s report, “Graduating to a Pay Gap,” researchers point to several reasons that might explain why women start out behind, even when they perform the same tasks as men: 

College major. In keeping with trends, men are far more likely than women to choose high-yield fields like engineering and computer science. Women still make up the majority of education and social sciences workers. 

Career paths. Even if men and women choose a degree that could lead to a high-paying line of work, women are more likely to choose a lower-paying career. The study uses engineering majors as an example: “Men are more likely than women to work in business and management occupations, computer and physical science occupations, and as engineers. The jobs that primarily employ men tend to pay more than the jobs that primarily employ women.” 

Shorter working hours. According to the study, women tend to work less overtime than men, clocking an average of 43 hours per week, while men average 45 hours per work at full-time jobs.

The mystery factor. What the AAUW noticed was that even in jobs that traditionally employ more women, men still earned higher salaries.  “Among teachers, for example, women earned 89 per cent of what men earned. In business and management occupations, women earned 86 per cent of what men earned; similarly, in sales occupations, women earned just 77 per cent of what their male peers earned.”

While some might blame these discrepancies on gender discrimination, the AAUW adds another plausible explanation to the mix: women are less likely than man to negotiate higher salaries off the bat. For example, Joey Reiman at LittlePinkBook reports that women are so fearful of the severance package negotiation that they’ll end up losing nearly $500,000 by the time they get ready to retire. 

Does a college degree really make a difference in how much money women make? Take our survey on the best colleges below—or tell us why it’s all a big waste of money.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.See also: 9 steps I took to get my finances back on track >

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