Female graduates earn 17% less than men
Men continue to make more money, even in fields dominated by women.
Despite the fact that women have made significant strides in breaking through the glass ceiling, a new study shows that not only does the gender gap still persist, it starts as soon as women enter the workforce.
New female college graduates earn 17% less than their male counterparts, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The group estimates that the average starting salary for a female graduate of the class of 2010 with a bachelor's degree was $36,451 -- 17% less than the $44,159 her male counterpart averaged.
The estimates are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as several benchmark surveys conducted by NACE in 2010.
NACE said the overall gender gap is still trickling down to those just entering the workforce. As 2009 census data indicate, women make, on average, 21.8% less than their male counterparts.
"Many older female college graduates suffer from a legacy of previous wage discrimination," Edwin W. Koc, NACE director of research, wrote in the report. This includes "life choices that impacted individual earnings during their career and hiring opportunities that limited their chance to make full use of their college degree."
NACE said the discrepancy had nothing to do with men being drawn to careers that are generally much more lucrative, since even when salary is controlled for field of study, men still come out ahead in most cases. Post continues after video.
One notable exception was in engineering, where the small percentage of women (18%) were what NACE called "commodities" and, as such, commanded a premium price for their services. But scarcity alone was no guarantee that a woman could close the wage gap in a particular field.
The same percentage of women (18%) earned degrees in computer science, but still averaged a salary of $52,531 a year, while men in the same field earned $56,227.
On the flip side, men continued to earn more in fields that women dominated. For example, in the field of education, where women accounted for nearly 80% of graduates, they averaged $29,092 a year while men made $39,849.
The one bright spot in the gender gap may be that BLS data indicate that women are more likely to be employed after graduation than men are. The report says that in 2010, when post-college unemployment was at its peak, the female unemployment rate for college grads was 8.1% -- the highest recorded for women -- while the male unemployment rate was a staggering 10.3% for new graduates.
But NACE discounted the assumption that those statistics represent positive outcomes for women, arguing that they might hide other aspects of the gender gap.
"The data say nothing about the kind of employment women find as opposed to men, or whether that employment is full time," Koc wrote in the report. "It could be that the unemployment rates for female new graduates are lower than their male counterparts simply because women are much more open to accepting part-time or temporary work than are men."
This is not the first time that a study suggests that women make less money because they are more willing to take less competitive (and therefore lower-paying) positions. In fact, MainStreet reported on another study that addressed the explanations for the gender gap earlier this year.
More on MainStreet and MSN Money:
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