Please mind the pay gap

Franziska Seitz

A recent study published by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit indicates that despite gender equality efforts in the working environment, female graduates are still earning less than their male counterparts. The unit’s study, named “Futuretrack”, is the third longitudinal analysis examining graduate job ambitions at university and actual career developments after graduation. According to the results, average graduate salaries of women range between £15,000 to £17,999 per annum, while men are likely to earn up to £6,000 more each year.

Replicating previous results of reports on graduates of the years 1995 and 1999, these numbers do not come at a great surprise. Similarly, unequal salaries amongst women and men have been lying in the public focus for years. In 2012, the Fawcett Society has identified a 14.9% salary difference between both genders of older generations. While explanations for salary differences amongst genders in older generations were usually related to factors such as women’s motherhood, the study conducted by HECSU indicates that differences must start earlier.

The results suggest a closer look at subject differences that already start at High School, with men being more prone to science professions involving mathematics of engineering, while women are more likely to study arts-related subjects or sciences such as biology. According to prospects.ac.uk, salaries of engineering graduates can consequently start at £18,000 per annum, while design students can earn as little as £14,000 in their first job.

Although some differences could be explained by these subject choices, men were still found to earn more across all disciplines, including those dominated by women. The most apparent pay gap was particularly present in law practices, in which, although equally represented to men, women earn as much as £8,000 less than their male colleagues. Notably, only the not-for-profit sector was identified as providing equal starting salary opportunities to both genders.

Razvan Balaban, VP Learning & Development, said: ““The SRC were concerned at the findings of the “futuretrack” survey and the fact that they seem to point to continuing pay inequality between male and female graduates. We believe that the UK Government should take stronger action on this issue in particular against employers found to be discriminating on the basis of gender.”

The published data calls for a wider investigation in gender-related salary differences, which appear to have its roots in other factors than for instance female maternity plans.