Women get short-changed

Studies show men make more money than women, despite graduating with the same degrees

Photo Illustration by Tina Flynn

College women on the brink of graduation may be in for a rude awakening.

While they have enjoyed majority status on campus and graduate with higher grade-point averages than their male classmates, young women still conspicuously lag in one crucial area: income earnings immediately after graduation.

A recent report of the American Association of University Women, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, found that one year after college graduation, women make 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn. As women’s age increases they fall further behind men. Ten years out of school, women earn 69 percent of what their male peers do.

“We controlled for everything that could have had an effect on earnings,” said Catherine Hill, director of research at the American Association of University Women. “And we still found a wage gap among a demographic that you’d expect there to be very little difference with, given, for the most part, that they don’t have caregiving obligations. But surprisingly, and unfortunately, we find that women already earn less; even when they have the same major and occupation as their male counterparts.”

Researchers analyzed data of a nationally representative sample of more than 19,000 male and female college graduates under the age of 35 and looked at two groups to measure the wage gap over time and to assess the most recent data on college graduates.

The first group received bachelor’s degrees in 1992-1993 and was interviewed in 1994, one year after receiving degrees, and in 2003, a decade after graduation.

The second group earned degrees in 1999-2000 and was interviewed in 2001, one year after receiving degrees.

The study found that those who received their degrees in 1992-1993 and those who received degrees in 1999-2000 did not have any significant difference in their earnings one year out of school, revealing that the wage gap has remained stagnant over time.

“The problem with something like a wage gap is that there’s no law that can change it,” said Lucy Yanow, director of the A.S. Women’s Center at Chico State. “We live in a messed-up society.”

Yanow, a women’s studies major, has discussed the issue in her classes. She is a feminist-activist, and the wage gap is just one topic of equality that demands her attention.

According to James Starmer, director of the Chico State Career Center, however, there is no wage gap.

“From working in this field since 1991 I have never seen that one time in an entry-level salary in any way, shape or form,” he said. “Even today I see the salaries absolutely comparable. But I can’t speak for what happens five, 10, 15 years out.”

If he found that a company that recruits Chico State grads was acting unfairly, like paying men more than women, that company wouldn’t be invited back on campus, Starmer said.

Starmer belongs to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The association recently released a study that counters his argument and shows that in the graduating class of 2007, men were more likely to have a job lined up before graduation (56 percent of those who applied) than women (48 percent). Also, the men reported higher starting salaries than the women.

The American Association of University Women, for its part, is pushing women’s workplace programming on a few campuses this year. The group, which has 500 college and university partners nationwide, including offices in Chico, Paradise and Oroville, launched in 2005 a grant-giving program, called Education as the Gateway to Women’s Economic Security, to help implement campus-based programs along annual themes.

“It’s not like women aren’t working hard enough,” Yanow said. “It’s just that people have preconceived notions about the kind of work women can do—and what they’re worth. Apparently women are worth about 78 cents to the male dollar.”