Discrimination and salary negotiation play roles in pay gap
Monday, November 5, 2012
beyond college major and occupation -- including discrimination and salary negotiating
skills -- are responsible for the country’s gender pay gap, according to "Graduating
to a Pay Gap,” a study by the American Association of
University Women (AAUW), which looked at the earnings of women and men one year
after college graduation.
In 2009 -- the recent year for
which data are available -- women one year out of college who were working full
time earned, on average, 82 percent of what their male peers earned. After controlling
for hours, occupation, college major, employment sector and other factors associated
with pay, the pay gap shrinks but does not disappear, AAUW reported.
of the gap cannot be explained by any of the factors commonly understood to
affect earnings, indicating that other factors that are more difficult to
identify -- and likely more difficult to measure -- contribute to the pay gap.
gender norms can play a role in the "explained” portion of the pay gap. Men are
more likely than women to major in fields like engineering and computer
science, which typically lead to higher-paying jobs. Women are more likely than
men to major in fields like education and the social sciences, which typically
lead to lower-paying jobs.
But college major is not the full
story. One year after graduation, a pay gap exists between women and men who
majored in the same field. Among business majors, for example, women earned
just over $38,000, while men earned just over $45,000.
Differences in the number of
hours worked also affect earnings and contribute to the pay gap. One year out
of college, women in full-time jobs reported working 43 hours per week on
average, and men in full-time jobs reported working an average of 45 hours per
Economic sector is another part
of the equation. Men were more likely than women to work in higher-paying
sectors of the economy.
Yet, when AAUW controlled for
each of these factors, women still tended to earn less than their male peers
did. Among business and management occupations, for example, women earned 86
percent of what men earned; similarly, in sales occupations, women earned just
77 percent of what their male peers earned.
Gender discrimination is one
potential contributor to the unexplained pay gap, according to the report,
which cited the increasing numbers of claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission and the millions of dollars employers pay annually in awards, settlements
and other legal fees. What’s more, experimental evidence confirms that many
people continue to hold biases against women in the workplace, especially those
who work in traditionally male fields, AAUW reported.
Another possible explanation for
the unexplained portion of the pay gap is a gender difference in willingness
and ability to negotiate salary, as men are more likely than women to negotiate
their salaries, AAUW concluded. In part, this difference may reflect women’s
awareness that employers are likely to view negotiations by men more favorably
than negotiations by women.