Women Learning More, Earning Less than Male Co-workers

Working women need one more academic degree than their male colleagues just to earn the same pay for the same work. In fact, over the course of their careers, women with bachelor’s degrees earn an eye-popping $1 million less than men with comparable credentials.

These are among the alarming conclusions of a new report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce on the wage gap, appropriately titled, “Women Can’t Win”:

Learning More, Earning Less. Despite outpacing men in educational achievement and increasingly pursing higher-paying majors in business and STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics), women still earn only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s up from 57 cents on the dollar four decades ago, but pay discrimination persists, even for women with advanced degrees:

  • Women account for 61 percent of associates’ degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees.
  • However, women are only paid as much as men who one rung lower on the academic ladder—and much less than men with the same degrees. Women with associates’ degrees earn average salaries of $43,000, which is less than male high school graduates, who get $47,000.
  • Women with bachelor’s degrees average $61,000, compared to $87,000 for men with the same degrees, thus exemplifying the million-dollar lifetime pay gap. For women with graduate degrees, the gap widens to $1.6 million.

Getting Ahead in a Rigged Economy. Recognizing the need for “major social and legal changes,” the report suggests a number of strategies for women to get ahead.

  • Not pursuing a B.A.? Try to get an industry-based certification.
  • Pick majors that pay well.
  • Get one degree or more in order to have the same earnings as a man.
  • Liberal arts major? Get a graduate degree.
  • Drive a hard bargain for your first paycheck because it influences your career earnings.

Union Advantage. As the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports, women with union representation earn 30 percent more than their non-union sisters.