College graduates experience gender pay gap right away, reports show

McHenry County experts suggest ways to help narrow pay gap

Despite men and women entering the workforce after graduating college having comparable experience, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

And while research, such as a report from the American Association of University Women, has shown that the gap has narrowed since the 1970s, a gap still exists, and starts affecting women right out of college.

“Once you get out of college, if you’re already starting at a lower salary than your male counterpart, then that has a snowball effect or a domino effect,” said Jo-An Takamoto Sabonjian, state policy chairwoman for AAUW.

The Economic Policy Institute analyzed employment, enrollment and wage trends of college graduates 21 to 24 years old who are not enrolled in further schooling.

According to the report, recently graduated men earned about 8.1 percent more in 2016 than in 2000, while their female counterparts earned 6.8 less than in 2000, noting that men at the top of the wage distribution could account for the discrepancy.

Crystal Lake business manager Samantha Wagner said that when she entered the workforce as a junior staff accountant, she felt like she couldn’t ask what others in the office were making.

“I think it’s such a taboo thing, and I don’t know if it was the way I was brought up, I almost feel rude,” said Wagner, who graduated from Carthage College in 2012 with a bachelor’s in accounting and Asian studies.

Now, as a manager for her family’s business Minuteman Press, 835 S. Virginia Road, Wagner said when she hires people she is transparent in what the business can offer, and determines who she hires based on skill.

Terrence Bishop, associate professor in the Department of Management of the Northern Illinois University College of Business, said he is an advocate for employers being transparent on the strategy behind their pay differentials.

“Unfortunately, what’s driving pay differentials may not always be rational,” Bishop said.

Factors that should drive wages include internal equity, or what the job requires as far as knowledge, skills abilities and other characteristics; the supply and demand of the market; and performance, Bishop said.

And while he said salary might not be brought up in initial interviews, woman and men should know their worth, and be prepared to negotiate for a fair salary.

“If a job applicant knows their worth in the labor market, and recognizes that an offer is sub-market, they should point that out and bring their data,” Bishop said.

Bishop said that when looking at the disparity between the pay of women and men, there’s a complex set of forces that contribute to it.

“Clearly part of the gender equity pay gap is driven by structural discriminatory forces, so now what percentage, it’s really hard to pin that down,” Bishop said.

One way AAUW helps women close the gap is through its salary negotiation workshops that give women strategies to better negotiate for equal pay, according to their website.

“Men are rewarded for being aggressive and women sometimes are not,” Carol Heisler, state president for AAUW Illinois, said.

Heisler, who lives in Crystal Lake, said that she believes she has made less than her male counterparts in past jobs, but it’s hard to tell what coworkers are making.

While laws have been signed to stop gender discrimination in pay, Heisler said it’s still there.

That’s why the AAUW also advocates for the Paycheck Fairness Act to improve the Equal Pay Act, which hasn’t been updated since 1963, according to AAUW’s website.

The third piece in helping to close the gap, according to AAUW, is for companies to monitor and address gender-based pay differences.

Wagner said that even if women know their worth and fight for a fair salary, they still may get the short end of the stick. But she said she encourages other women to not settle if they’re unhappy with how they’re being paid or treated at a company.

“I think that sometimes women sell themselves short because they feel lucky if they get hired,” Wagner said. “Instead of, ‘You earned it, own it.’ “

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