Pay gap hits graduates

Just a few days after Laura’s merry-go-round antics comes an infuriating report in The Guardian. A survey from the Higher Education Statistic Agency reveals that the pay gap between men and women reveals itself as soon as students graduate, with men earning an average of £1000 a year more than women. 40% of men earn £25,000pa or more within three years of graduating, compared to 26% of women.

The research suggests that women are more likely to take entry level jobs to work their way up in a career whereas the men with whom they graduate play a high-risk game holding out for a more lucrative position even if it means being temporarily unemployed.

Catherine Benfield, head of the research project at Hesa, said: “Women accept that they may take a job below their expectations and work up from there. Men would rather be unemployed and searching for that perfect job.

Previous research by the Equal Opportunities Commission has shown a national pay gap fuelled by the tendency of women to slip into part-time roles after having children and work in areas such as childcare and cleaning which are paid less.

But these findings suggest that women are paid badly even in fulltime graduate jobs and even before they start to have children, take time out and fall behind in their careers.

VERY worrying. I can see two possible further reasons for this:

1 – Men are more likely to study maths and sciences, and women more likely to study humanities. What do you do with a BA in English? Those traditionally “male” subjects that girls are encouraged to believe are unfeminine, too difficult and beyond the capabilities of their pink fluffy brains lead to jobs that pay better.

2 – Plain, old-fashioned out-and-out sexism.

Although the former of those two explanations would take years of beating down ancient and relentlessly perpetuated stereotypes to solve, as Kat Stark, women’s officer for the National Union of Students explains, it wouldn’t be too difficult to tackle the latter:

These figures show that even after attending university, women are earning less than men. Many women are unaware that they are being paid less than men – in order to tackle this, the government should force employers to reveal how much they pay their employees.

Employers being forced to reveal how much they pay their employees would help to reduce not just gender-based discrimination, but discrimination of other kinds too.

I for one am thoroughly sick of reading articles in women’s magazines that try to tackle the pay gap by teaching their readers how to ask for a pay rise. Although such articles are designed to be empowering, they deflect responsibility for such gross unfairness onto the victim. And recent extremely worrying research suggests that having the temerity to ask for a pay rise might even prove damaging to a woman’s position in the company. Expecting women to solve the pay gap for themselves by begging their bosses for an extra £1000 a year is tantamount to accepting the existence of the pay gap, expecting women to have to jump over inevitable hurdles rather than removing the hurdles themselves. Blaming a woman for the fact that she earns less than her male colleagues is to me analogous to blaming a rape victim for wearing a short skirt.