This week, the White House unveiled a new website where people can research tuition costs and post-graduation employment rates at colleges across America. One goal of this initiative is to help students make financially informed decisions about taking loans to pay for their education.
One surprising -- and depressing -- finding was that female graduates made less than male graduates from the same schools.
Specifically, 10 years after graduating, alumnae made less than their male counterparts at virtually every university in the government's database. However, the worst pay discrepancies were at the country's most prestigious universities.
The New York Times reported that the biggest pay gap was $58,1000 for MIT female graduates. However, the picture is just as bleak at the Ivy League universities, where Fortune reported the following pay gaps:
- Harvard University - $54,600
- UPenn - $49,000
- Princeton - $47,700
- Yale - $34,600
- Columbia - $33,700
- Dartmouth - $29,500
- Cornell - $26,700
- Brown - $18,800
The million dollar question is, of course, why?
Experts suggest that equal pay is a complex topic to dissect since it involves people making choices that may account for a large portion of this difference. Certainly choosing to work in a specific industry or in a particular job will be the largest factor in determining your salary. And of course, personal choices will have an impact, e.g. if you take time out of the workforce to care for your family.
That said, many experts say the research shows that there remains a stubborn pay gap that exists even after all these factors are accounted and controlled for. There are certain assumptions employers make about the choices women may make or priorities they have (whether or not they make them or actually have them) that play a role in creating biases that ultimately reduce working women's' salaries and opportunities for advancement.
Many women we speak to feel certain that they are paid equally for equal work. We have no particular reason to think they aren't correct, and certainly nobody likes to think they are being treated unfairly.
On the other hand, optimism shouldn't be incompatible with a healthy skepticism about being paid your fair worth. That's where salary transparency and data releases like these come in. They're a sharp reminder that we can't always take money matters for granted.
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