Coed Diplomas Worth Less?

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Jan 30, 2012 in , , | No Comments

Women now outnumber men in college and have progressed in the workplace.

Then why are they receiving less compensation and getting fewer higher level jobs than their male counterparts?

Early last year, a chief executive of one of the largest European banking institutions caused an uproar when he commented on appointing women to a then all male board. Basically, he said it would make it “prettier and more colorful.” If you think this sort of mindset about women in boardrooms is rare in the U.S., think again.

Additionally, American women rank behind those in Sweden, France, Britain and Finland when it comes to the difference between their average earnings compared to full-time male employees (in the same positions). On average, women in the U.S. make approximately 20% less for doing the exact same job. Yet without the American working woman, experts guess this county’s GDP would be at least 25% less. That says a great deal.

It’s Worth Less

Take into consideration how much a coed’s college debt will tally once graduated, factor in a lengthier job search time, and let’s not forget that 20% salary reduction–there’s good reason for American female grads to be angry. Nobody wants to feel their efforts aren’t valued as much, especially if that devaluing has to do with one’s gender. You might say your diploma is worth less and I think you’re right.

It doesn’t get better once a female is established either, lower wages plague women as they rise through the ranks, creating an even wider gap in pay. And speaking of rising, too many have hit their collective heads on glass ceilings. In 2012, women are horribly underrepresented in the boardrooms across the U.S. Yet according to The Economist magazine, in their article “Closing the Gap”, they cite, “A number of studies have shown that the presence of a critical mass of women in senior jobs is positively correlated with a company’s performance and possibly with higher profits.” It would benefit companies to take note of this fact.

For recent grads, the picture might at first look bright with equal numbers of males and females being recruited. However, it’s a different story half-way up the corporate ladder, leaving a paltry amount of women at the top. Women make up only 3% of CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies.

Where’s the Legislation?

Equal pay legislation has existed for a period of time, mostly since the 1970′s, yet employers basically ignore it knowing full well they can hire women cheaper than men. Why is this so easily done? First, it’s been commonplace in this country that we don’t discuss salary–which is to our own detriment as employees–female or male. Second, equal pay legislation isn’t enforced as it should be–or reported as often as it happens. Third, women are usually brought up to be “nice”, which translates into not confronting people when they are being taken advantage of in some way. And, there is fear of retaliation too, but what’s better–to get cheated out of wages–or fight for what you deserve?

In President Obama’s SOTU address, he mentioned equality for women. The time for women to be paid correctly is long overdue. Hopefully with support from college students and grads, laws will be passed making it mandatory. By the same token, women must also take action to help themselves. Research salaries before interviews, know you can counter their offer and later, negotiate for a raise.

Two Jobs, One Paycheck

Once a woman has children, things get exponentially worse on several levels. Women put in long hours at their jobs and then come home to put in more hours working–almost twice as much as men–averaging 33 hours per week.

But women have options: don’t have children, put off childbearing until they can pay someone to do the work, or establish with the father he must pull his weight carrying out daily duties. And women must learn to not say yes to every request to stay late or put in extra hours on weekends (see my other post What Would You Say?)

Underrepresented and Concentrated

Large numbers of women are concentrated in teaching, health care, clerical, social work and sales. Often, these jobs are not at all high paying. They are underrepresented in higher paying jobs such as; science, engineering, physics, math, production and manual jobs–and as upper level managers.

Progress has been made in certain areas. For example; the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think-tank in Washington, D.C., stated that we now have more women dentists, pharmacists and lawyers. However, women in America seem to shy away from male dominated jobs like carpenters, electricians and machinists.

The private sector is where women seem to not only be happy, but embraced. Promotions for women to senior jobs is commonplace and pays better than the public sector. Unfortunately, during the recession and aftermath, globally, many of these jobs have been cut back. No longer are women in the U.S. sitting pretty, the losses of their private sector jobs came slowly, but hit hard. More cuts seem to be on the horizon for this sector.


Women run approximately one third of small businesses in wealthy countries. Their businesses are usually smaller than those of men, find it harder to secure financing and therefore generate fewer jobs, but have lower turnover. One bonus: being an entrepreneur means you won’t go unappreciated by the boss!

In another article in The Economist, “The cashier and the carpenter”, it’s stated, “Both as entrepreneurs and employees, women still seem to be at a disadvantage. The most obvious explanation is that most of them have children.”


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