What’s the deal with the gender pay gap?
On Sept. 24, 2015, Copy Editor Sarah Yung ‘16 wrote an invigorating article about the gender pay gap. According to conclusive evidence from the White House’s new college earnings data website College Scorecard, the gender pay gap is real. Male graduates outearn female graduates from every elite university in the United States.
Although the gender gap is present at every single top university, the divide is apparently the largest at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the average male graduate can expect to earn a whopping $58,100/year more than his female counterpart. It is disheartening to see that even in this progressive day and age, females still do not earn as much as their male equals, even when they graduate from our country’s most elite institutions.
According to College Scorecard, the average Pacific alumnus makes $66,400 a year, or $32,057 above the national salary, 10 years after graduation. To give you more context, this means the average Pacific graduate is making more after a decade than his or her peers at University of Southern California, University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles. This places Pacific in the No. 8 spot among California’s 119 public and private nonprofit universities in terms of alumni salaries.
The data, however, is not foolproof: It does not take into account a variety of factors, such as a college’s specializations, the highest-earning majors or the vocations students go into. The data also does not reflect how influential factors like a student’s academic and economic background, ethnicity or family dynamics may affect the results.
The following week, on Oct. 1, 2015, Dr. James Webb, an assistant professor of accounting at Eberhardt School of Business, sent a Letter to the Editor about Yung’s article. Webb believed that although discrimination may be present, before one attributes the variance in outcomes to prejudice, a thoughtful person must recognize that groups of people differ in their cultures, interests, choices and a wide array of other factors.
These group differences are not exclusive to contemporary America but are found in nearly all countries and have existed throughout recorded history. Webb appreciated the editors for taking an interest in economic and societal matters but was disappointed with the gender pay gap analysis. He believed that it was a superficial argument to suggest that an average compensation difference across genders was definitive evidence of a discriminatory labor force that promotes an insidious financial divide.
Webb suggested to students that no matter which group you may identify with, the best thing you can do to compete in today’s economy is to develop the individual skills that employers need and are willing to pay for.
Editors responded by clarifying that Yung hoped to urge students to examine the data The White House published and enter into discussion about the conclusions one could extrapolate from the data provided, not promote a certain political agenda.
The response established that while it is true there will always be fundamental differences between men and women, these differences, rooted in a historically and systemically patriarchal society, have yet to be equalized. The reality is, then, that men and women of different backgrounds will aspire to different vocations and will climb the rungs of society at different rates — this is not the issue. The issue Yung believes must be examined is whether society marginalizes certain voices in a way that prevents them from ever aspiring to certain positions that make more money or achieve higher workplace status. The issue at hand is, are we as a society inadvertently and yes, insidiously, promoting ideals, traditions and stereotypes that force women — and people of color, and people who have disabilities and any other marginalized people — into certain vocations and life decisions in which unequal earning potential becomes inevitable?
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