Female Grads: Welcome to Pay Inequality

Last Updated May 16, 2011 7:15 AM EDT

The debate about the pay gap between men and women has been fierce on BNET the last few months, with Steve Tobak calling it a complete myth (and Penelope Trunk backing him up) and Catherine Hill insisting that the gender pay gap is real.

The naysayers mainly argue that any difference in earnings is due to women's career choices -- they prefer lower paid jobs and work less to raise families. Not so, says Hill who notes, among other evidence against this theory, that the pay gap appears right after graduation before most workers are thinking about adding children at all.

Who's right? If a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is correct, Hill is -- at least about the early emergence of the pay gap. In the organization's journal, Ed Koc, NACE director of research, lays out the organization's findings that recently graduated women earn significantly less than their male counterparts:

Reports that the average starting salary to a Class of 2010 new female college graduate at the bachelor's degree level was $36,451 -- 17 percent less than the $44,159 her male counterpart averaged. The discrepancy can't be explained as the result of males choosing majors that lead to higher-paying jobs. Even when salary is adjusted by major, men come out ahead in most cases.
To put a final hole in the sinking argument that the gap between male and female grads' salaries is down to choice of career paths, Koc notes that even in fields that are traditionally chosen by women, like education which is 80 percent female, women are still paid less than men. Being the rare male teacher may pay a dividend, but being the underrepresented gender doesn't always mean higher pay -- female computer scientists still earn less than men straight out of school. (Female engineers were the exception making more on average than male engineers).

Do the findings from NACE shift your opinion on the gender pay gap?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Nenyaki, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.