Â“I think that there is something embedded in the societal norms that [says] itÂ’s okay for pay women less for doing the there work,Â” says McTiernan in response to the study, which shows that women new to the workforce earn only 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.
The study, titled “Graduating to a Pay Gap” and published by the American Association of University Women,” is significant because it focuses on women just entering the job market as opposed to those who have been in the workforce for years or decades. It also controls for different professions, significantly weakening the long-held argument that women are paid less because they enter jobs that traditionally offer lower compensation.
The study points to gender discrimination as an overarching viable explanation for the pay discrepancy.
The work looks at the earnings of men and women one year after graduating from college, in 2009. It found that the average salary for women working full-time was $35,296, while the average pay for men was $42,918.
“It’s just astonishing that it’s still this way,” says McTiernan, who serves as associate dean for graduate programs and associate professor of management at the Quinnipiac University School of Business.
Assertions in the study include: “The gender pay gap among college graduates starts immediately after graduation,” lower earnings early on have the effect of “setting into motion a chain of disparities that will follow women throughout their careers,” and “making equal pay for men and women a reality will require action on the part of employers, public policy makers and individuals.”
McTiernan agrees. Both the “corporate hierarchy” and the “political hierarchy” must commit to making changes to ensure equal pay for women, she says. McTiernan notes that only a small percentage of top corporate jobs are held by women. Congressional figures put the number of women in Congress at less than 17 percent.
“I think it’s a big problem for women,” says McTiernan.
Among the solutions is being able to comfortably negotiate a deserving salary during the job-acquisition process, she says.
“They have to be more comfortable negotiating. That’s the big hump to get over,” she says, adding that she advises students, “Don’t be the one, whatever they say, to put the first number on the table.”
Another remedy is researching high, low and average salaries for a particular job.
“We tell the students to do as much research as they possibly can,” says McTiernan.
— Felicia Hunter
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