A new study by the American Association of University Women found that the gender pay gap that causes women to earn less than their male counterparts for the same work is not something that occurs over time, but rather is a problem as early as the one year after college graduation, as of the most recent data for 2009.
The study, Graduating to a Pay Gap, found that while the choices women make regarding major, occupation, and time spent at work, explain some of the pay disparity, one-third of the pay gap is unexplained, “suggesting that bias and discrimination are still problems in the workplace.”
Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 nearly 50 years ago, women earn less than men in every occupation, the study found. Women are found to earn, on average, 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. After accounting for time worked, college major, employment sector, and other factors associated with pay, the wage gap still exists, and women are found to earn 93% of what men earn.
The study offers a few explanations for the gap. Gender discrimination, as evidenced by the increasing number of claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is one. Discrimination, however, is difficult if not impossible to measure. Another explanation is the gender difference in willingness and ability to negotiate for more pay.
Study authors recommend that to solve the pay gap problem, the public must first acknowledge that it exists. Second, women can make different choices, such as not fearing negotiation or choosing to take union jobs, which could improve earnings. Women can’t change the gap alone, study authors write, concluding that the government must create better public policies, and employers must invest in more transparent pay systems that they can believe competitors follow as well.