New study shows how hard it is for women — even those with advanced degrees — to make the same salary that men earn
When it comes to pay parity, America is falling quite a few degrees short.
Women need to earn an additional degree than men to make roughly the same salary, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
On average, women with a master’s degree earned $83,000 per year in 2017; that’s less than what men with a just bachelor’s degree earned: $87,000. (Meanwhile, men with a master’s earned an average of $121,000 — far and away the highest earners in the country, as measured by this study.) And women with a bachelor’s earned just negligibly more than men who only held an associates: $61,000 versus $59,000.
The study also parsed out earnings by ethnicity. For instance, white men who have only earned high school diplomas earned an average $47,000 per year — as compared to black women who have earned a bachelor’s ($53,000) and Latina women ($52,000). And while white men who have earned a bachelor’s made $90,000, black and Latina women with a master’s earned just $69,000 and $71,000, respectively.
What do these numbers tell you? Women, especially women of color, who pursue additional years of education — and likely take on ten on tens of thousands of dollars in student debt — are held back from making the same as men with less educational experience under their belt.
Nicole Smith, the chief economist at Georgetown who co-authored the study, said one major reason that could explain the wage disparity is that women are often driven toward lower-earning industries than men.
“If you were to go to our nation’s college campuses and just walk into any psychology class or education class or social work class, you would find that those classes are predominantly women,” she said. “And if you were to walk across the hall…to engineering and computers, you would find that men are still filling those seats.”
Many of these women go on to obtain master’s degrees in these arenas, which still don’t equate to the same high earnings that men in plenty of other fields take home every year. What’s more, these women, Smith said, are likely to go into teaching, which also can keep women’s earnings lower than those in the private sector.
For context, it’s worth noting that STEM fields generally produce grads with higher starting salaries than other non-STEM fields, but, as Moneyish has previously reported, women face major uphill battles in breaking into STEM. That’s demonstrated by the 65% of STEM grads in America who are men, versus just 35% who are women.
Another issue is that research shows that negotiation is more problematic for women, says Stanford Business School professor Margaret Neale, a leading expert on negotiation and gender dynamics in the workforce. For one, “men are more likely to push and women are less likely to push…for greater compensation,” she says.
But it’s more than that: “Women get pushback in ways that men don’t when they try to negotiate. It’s not just that the female person is reticent to negotiate,” Neale added, “[but that] she’s reticent to negotiate because of good reason. People are much more likely to see [women] as greedy, demanding, not nice, mean — and all these pejorative attributes.”
The facts are on Neale’s side: A 2016 survey from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org found that women were likelier than men to receive negative performance reviews after asking for a raise or promotion, and had a much tougher time actually landing that promotion.
Whatever the reasons, one profound takeaway is clear, Smith concluded: “A woman can earn up to $1 million in her lifetime less than a man — just based on the choices she made when she was 18 years old.”
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