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Gender Pay Gap Persists for Graduates in Almost Every Field

17 January 2018 at 10:03 am
Luke Michael
The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey has found the gender pay gap is the lowest recorded in 40 years, but women continue to earn less than men in almost every field of study.    

Luke Michael | 17 January 2018 at 10:03 am


Gender Pay Gap Persists for Graduates in Almost Every Field
17 January 2018 at 10:03 am

The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey has found the gender pay gap is the lowest recorded in 40 years, but women continue to earn less than men in almost every field of study.     

The survey – which forms part of the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey suite – found broadly that employment and salary outcomes for Higher Education graduates had improved across the country.

The median annual salary for undergraduates employed full-time last year was $60,000, an increase of $2,100 compared to graduates from 2016.  

But female undergraduates continued to earn less than male undergraduates, even though the gender pay gap of 6.4 per cent in 2016 dropped down to 1.9 per cent last year – the lowest recorded gender gap reported in 40 years of undergraduate salary data.

The median undergraduate salary for females was $59,000 compared with $60,100 for males.

Previous research has suggested that a key contributing factor to the gender gap in graduate salaries was that females tended to graduate from fields that achieve lower salaries (like humanities), whereas males tended to graduate from more highly salaried fields (like engineering).

However females still earned less than their male counterparts in almost every field of study.

“The gender gap in salaries is explained, in part, by the fact that females are more likely to graduate from study areas which receive lower levels of remuneration. However, it is also the case that at the undergraduate level females earn less overall than their male counterparts within most study areas,” the survey report said.

“Engineering and communications were the exceptions where female undergraduate median salaries are higher than or equal to their male counterparts.

“This demonstrates that beyond subject choice, the gender gap in median graduate salaries persists due to a range of other factors such as occupation, age, experience, personal factors and possible inequalities within workplaces.”

In 2017, the median full-time salary for dentistry undergraduates was $94,600 for males, compared to $75,100 for females.  

This $19,500 gender salary gap was the highest amongst fields of study, followed by architecture and built environment with $7,800, law and paralegal studies with $5,000, and humanities, culture and social sciences with $4,500.

Lisa Annese, the CEO of Diversity Council Australia (DCA), told Pro Bono News that these latest findings were “frustrating”.

“While it’s good news that the average gender gap for graduates has decreased, it is frustrating that in 2017, female graduates are still starting their working lives earning less than their male counterparts,” Annese said.

“This is particularly depressing because, as noted in the She’s Price(d)less report… women are achieving higher levels of educational attainment than men, but not achieving equal remuneration.

“The fact that female graduates start on lower salaries than their male counterparts in the same professions shows that the gender pay gap is not a myth, and is not the result of women’s ‘choices’.”

Annese highlighted recent statistics from the World Economic Forum that indicated while Australia ranked highly in education equality for women, the nation rated poorly in other areas.

This resulted in females being more likely to experience issues later on in their career that affected the gender pay gap.

“For example, on economic participation and opportunity for women, Australia slips back into 42nd ranked place, and we slip back to 62nd ranked for wage equality for similar work, while areas of segregation are apparent, [for example] in information technology,” she said.

“Gender segregation in the Australian labour market continues to be a persistent factor underpinning the gender pay gap, and has actually grown over recent years. Professions that have a majority of female employees tend to receive lower rates of pay because of historical discrimination and undervaluing of women’s work.”

The DCA CEO said encouraging more women to enter higher-salaried professions dominated by men would not solve the issue, due to the persistent devaluing of women’s labour.

“It’s not enough to push women into traditionally male-dominated fields because we have seen that when a profession becomes dominated by women, the pay in that profession decreases,” Annese said.

“We need to do more to address the historic undervaluing of women’s labour, and also to be more open and transparent about pay across industries and workplaces.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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