US: Men earn more than women as fresh grads - research
The research found an 11.5 percent gap exists between the two sexes - with women earning an average base pay of US$50,426 while men get US$56,957 - in the first five years of work after graduation. Source: Shutterstock

University graduates of the fairer sex are bound to a career path of less money compared to their male peers because of their choice of degree subjects, according to a new research by jobs website Glassdoor.

Women’s favoured subjects bring them to lower-paying careers compared to their male counterparts, via an “occupational sorting”. An 11.5 percent gap exists between the two sexes – with women earning an average base pay of US$50,426 while men get US$56,957 – in the first five years of work after graduation.

“When we isolate by major, pay gaps remain because men and women are sorting into different jobs after graduating – a clear sign of societal pressures and gender norms at play in the career paths of young workers,” Glassdoor chief economist Dr Andrew Chamberlain told The Independent.

Chamberlain and his team of researchers sorted through more than 46,900 resumes (submitted by those who graduated in the US between 2010 and 2017) that were shared on Glassdoor to see how college majors translate into gender gaps in salaries later.

What they found was the college majors they choose can have a “dramatic impact” on their careers and pay in the future.

At the start, societal pressures like pre-college preparation and gender norms push the sexes to choose different majors – men mostly preferred Mechanical Engineering (89 percent male), Civil Engineering (83 percent male), Physics (81 percent male) while the girls went for Social Work (85 percent female), Healthcare Administration (84 percent female), Anthropology (80 percent female).

Men’s favourite majors lead to high-paying roles in tech and engineering while women’s choices ushered them to lower-paying roles.

The biggest gender pay gap (22 percent) lies with the Healthcare Administration Course, where women do not even earn the current benchmark of eighty cents to every dollar men earn, but even lower at only US$0.78 for every US$1 men earn. This was followed by Mathematics (18 percent) and Biology (13 percent).

Luckily, a “reverse” gender pay gap exists for some college majors, where their female graduates are earning more than their male counterparts. Female architecture graduates out-earn by -14 percent, getting US$1.14 for every US$1 their male colleagues earn. Music and Social Work majors had the second and third highest “reverse gender pay gap at -10.1 percent and -8.4 percent respectively.

Still, the study found six of the 10 lowest paying majors are female-dominated. By contrast, nine of the 10 highest-paying majors are male-dominated.

But Glassdoor’s researchers admit while there is a correlation between the college majors and salaries, there may exist other influencing factors that are beyond the scope of the study.

One research suggests women get paid less “because women take them”, as reported by the Harvard Business Review (HBR). When biology and design jobs were male-dominated back then, wages were higher. But the reverse happened in computing – one of the highest-paying fields – where the early days were dominated by women, compared to the field’s dominance by male today. It is now one of the highest-paying field.

But the solution does not seem to lie with asking female students to choose higher-paying college majors. Glassdoor’s report also showed although both sexes graduated as biology majors, males still ended up with the higher-paying jobs, such as data analysts and managers.

Despite this, Chamberlain is counting on his research to at least give some insight and break some stereotypes, if not fattening women’s wallets.

Speaking to HBR, Chamberlain says he hopes his research will give all college students more insight into which majors pay the most, so they can make informed decisions about which major to choose.

“Physics is a heavily male-dominated field … but showing female undergrads how much more they could potentially earn, I think that would help overcome some of those stereotypes,” Chamberlain said.

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