Widening gender pay gap starts at uni

Women are requesting lower starting salaries than men, and the gap's widened in the last decade.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 13 Jul 2015

Female students are looking for lower salaries than men when job hunting, and the gap has widened by over 40% in a decade.

The average ‘ideal’ starting salary requested by women looking for jobs while at university was £18,781 in 2013, £1,438 lower than the £20,219 the average man asked for. The gap is 44% wider than in 2003, when women asked for £999 less than the £18,506 salary men were looking for, according to graduate-jobs.com.

A lot of that is down to the jobs men and women are going for. Men are more likely to aim for higher-paying careers, graduate-jobs.com found when analysing the sector preferences of almost 500,000 graduate job seekers signed up to their website over the last 10 years.

Out of the ten most popular sectors for graduates, banking and finance, management, accounting and consultancy are male-dominated and have an average starting salary of £30,000 or over, according to graduate careers site prospects.ac.uk. HR, recruitment and training; buying merchandising and customer service; and advertising, marketing and PR range from £19,000 to £21,5000 and are female dominated. Only research and analysis is gender neutral, with an average starting salary of £30,000.

It’s not entirely surprising that men are more likely than women to want to go into engineering, IT and banking rather than HR, marketing and PR. More men study science, maths and computing at university and ergo are more able to go into those careers. That doesn’t make the gap any less depressing though.

Women are catching up in terms of pay and representation at higher levels, and more girls are studying traditionally ‘male’ subjects at school and university. But while careers in engineering, finance and computing stay stereotyped as the preserve of the macho and testosterone-fuelled (or the pale, male computer nerd in the case of technology), the pace of change will remain glacial.

On the other hand, maybe some female students are aiming for careers they think they’ll enjoy, rather than ones with a fat pay packet, which isn’t a bad thing – can’t buy me love, of course. Although, equally, if capable women don’t think they’ll enjoy engineering et al, those sectors have a problem.

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