Facing the Wage Gap as a Female College Grad


Written by Vanessa Harbin

As someone who considers herself to be pretty plugged in to gender issues, I have often heard the statistic about the ratio of womenís and menís earnings, and figured I knew most of the story. The past few months I have been going merrily along pursuing job leads in preparation for graduation from my masterís program next month, without even considering how I personally might be affected by the wage gap. Surely, as a young woman with a graduate degree, my salary will be right up there with my male peers, right? Since I havenít seen much difference in the jobs being pursued by and offered to my female and male classmates, isnít it a given that weíll be getting paid equally?

Then I began helping with the research at the Institute for Womenís Policy Research (IWPR) looking at trends in womenís earnings and labor force participation over the past few decades. First, I was surprised to learn that it wasnít until 1984 that college-educated women earned as much as men with a high school diploma, and it took another seven years until they earned as much as men with some college education or an associateís degree.

Then, I saw the wage gap between men and women with at least a college degreeóitís the biggest gap between men and women at any level of education. And even though the gap for all workers in my age group (age 25 to 44) is the lowest in 30 years, itís still almost 14 percent (according to IWPRís micro data analysis of the Current Population Survey). Even when women get into highly-paid and fast growing sectors like science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) fields, they are paid 14 percent less than menóa much narrower gender gap than many other professions, but a gap nonetheless.

Yet, I know that Iím extremely lucky to be where I am. Women with low education and skill levels can not only expect to earn less than their male counterparts, but often struggle to make a livable salary. Men with poor literacy skills have substantially higher earnings than women with the same abilities. And even with higher literacy levels, women still face a wage gap.

Learning the statistics has shown me that the wage gap does indeed exist and impacts womenís earningsóeven highly educated women. †It is important to be aware that the playing field might not be even and to inform policymakers about this persistent discrepancy in earnings. IWPR will be releasing an analysis of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the wage gap with occupations. †Our research on pay equity will be discussed at an Equal Pay Day congressional briefing April 17 organized by the Fair Pay Coalition. If you canít make the briefing, you can still stay informed on this issue by visiting our website.

This post was originally published by MomsRising.


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Photo from Thinkstock


Mike Chrissie
Mike Chrissie5 years ago

President Obama has been outspoken in his criticism of “paycheck discrimination” that has women earning less than men for the same jobs, but a new report shows that female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues.

According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, while the median salary for male employees was $71,000 — about 18 percent more, the Washington Free Beacon reports.

“Women are Obama’s base, and they don’t seem to have enough people who look like the base inside of their own inner circle,” former Bill Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Meyers told the New York Times.

Nadine Hudak
Nadine H5 years ago

I was an LPN 30 yrs ago and they were doing it then, how much money is enough to make on women! where are our rights!!????

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher5 years ago

Well put Keevin!
I'll never understand why people are so masochistic as to vote right-wingers in the first place.
But for a woman to do so... Some of us want to go back to slavery I suppose. Sad.

Keevin Shultz
Keevin Shultz5 years ago

Think about all the women who actually desire lower pay by voting republino. Maybe some women are not so bright after all and deserve to be paid less thus justifying the republino position? Maybe republinos and some women agree that a woman with a degree is worth less than a man with a degree?

Rosalind R.
Rosalind R5 years ago

These days, anyone - men or women - are lucky just to find a decent job.
Pick your battles wisely!

John B.
John B5 years ago

A very sad statement of fact. Before retirement I worked in the medical field in PTas an assistant to the physical therapist and was amazed that I made more money than almost all of the female LPNs and a lot of the female RNs. While I felt my job was important theirs dealt with life saving measures daily where as mine did not, also they had massive student loans to pay off. This aage gap problem needs to be resolved now not later.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

i think if women are going to be paid less for the same amount of education then her tuition should be lower. i have a science degree and i know there is a good chance my pay will be lower and it pisses me off. i put the same amount of work earning my degree and paid the same tuition as my male classmates, why would having a vagina suddenly mean im less valued therefore paid less?!

Catherine S.
Catherine S5 years ago

As far as I know, there is still only one profession that pays women more than men. A very old profession. Where am I going with this? I don't know. Should I be happy that there is at least one profession for which women receive higher wages, or should I just be sad, since it doesn't require education and isn't considered prestigious in most cultures? I really don't know.