The gender pay gap in the United States starts early with what you choose as your college major.
Majors that tend to lead to higher-paying jobs are dominated by male college students and majors that feed into lower-paying jobs are dominated by women, Glassdoor found in a new report.
“Because men and women systematically sort into different college majors, they experience different early career paths, which pay differently,” Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain and senior data analyst Jyotsna Jayaraman wrote in their report. “These pay differences in turn reveal themselves as major contributors to the well-documented gap between male and female pay in the labor market.”
The well-documented gap shows that women earn just over 80 cents for every man’s dollar, with the gap increasing significantly for women of color.
In companies’ reports on equal pay, they tend to point out that the gender pay gap narrows or almost disappears when it’s adjusted women and men in the exact same jobs, especially early in their careers, earn about equal salaries. But the unadjusted pay gap, caused by men being awarded higher-paying roles and women working in lower-paying jobs, persists across majors and industries, as Glassdoor found.
The jobs site analyzed nearly 47,000 resumes uploaded to its platform to find these results. Across college majors, men earned $56,957 per year to women’s $50,426 per year. That’s a pay gap of 11.5 percent.
“Solutions to todays remaining gender pay gap must go beyond examining current pay practices among employers.”
Of the 10 college majors that lead to the highest-paying jobs in the first five years after graduation, nine were dominated by men. Those majors were six engineering degrees, plus information technology, management information systems, statistics, and the lone women-dominated degree, nursing.
Of the 10 lowest-paying college majors, six were dominated by women. Those majors were healthcare administration, social work, education, liberal arts, psychology, and biology. Men made up more students in the low-paying criminal justice, kinesiology, and music fields. The last low-paying major, exercise science, was about equal in its gender divide.
It’s not enough to say that women should choose majors that lead to higher-paying jobs. Part of the problem is that professions where women make up most of the workforce sometimes called “pink collar” jobs have been undervalued and underpaid. Over 85 percent of social work majors were women and 66 percent of education majors were women, Glassdoor found. Women’s choices of college majors are affected by their pre-college preparation, gender norms, and other societal factors besides just their own individual interests.
And choosing a major that leads to a higher-paying field doesn’t insulate women from the wage gap. After graduation, women biology majors found jobs as lab technicians, pharmacy technicians, and sales associates, according to Glassdoor. Male biology majors were employed as lab technicians or higher-paid data analysts and managers. The majors with the biggest wage gaps for their male and female students were healthcare administration and mathematics.
“Our findings suggest that solutions to todays remaining gender pay gap must go beyond examining current pay practices among employers,” Chamberlain and Jayaraman wrote. “Instead, they must also address pipeline issues including the choice of college major that help drive men and women into different career paths and pay.”