Waterloo Region Record

Women with PhDs reach pay equity with men

New study suggests that the lower the level of education, the bigger the gender pay gap


The wage gap has closed between women and men with newly earned PhDs — though the numbers are less comforting for those without a decade to spend in the halls of higher learning, according to a University of Guelph study.

The study, which focuses on gender equity in the labour market, found that both male and female doctoral graduates earn about $70,000 annually during the first three years after convocatio­n.

“This is the first time that I’ve seen at any level that there is no discrepanc­y in earnings between males and females,” said professor David Walters.

However, the study also suggests that the lower the level of education, the bigger the gender pay gap, and that on average only PhD graduates achieved income equity. The authors attribute the link between advanced education and equal incomes to strong collective agreements and proactive labour policies in the sectors PhD graduates gravitate toward, such as academia and government.

The pay gap is greatest among employees in the trades, where on average women earn $32,500 and men earn $40,500 — 25 per cent more. Lead author Anthony Jehn says men tend to go into higher-paying trades, such as pipefittin­g or plumbing, whereas women lean more toward hairdressi­ng or cosmetolog­y.

Published Monday in the journal Higher Education Policy, the study analyzed data from Statistics Canada’s sweeping 2013 National Graduates Survey, which surveyed trades, college and university graduates three years after graduation.

“You would think that if they’re early in their careers, they should be on equal footing,” said Jehn, noting that the wage gap tends to widen over time.

“There are different sorts of penalties that females experience, such as mat leave or taking time off work, which interfere with their ability to gain experience in the labour market. But [recent] graduates in the labour market are still seeing this gender bias too.”

The difference in income between male master’s and PhD graduates was virtually non-existent at $69,500 and $70,000, respective­ly. For women entering the workforce, however, investing in a doctorate meant an average pay bump to $69,000, up from $62,500 for master’s graduates.

The findings show that greater pay equity exists for those who can afford to invest in education, a problem that compounds class divisions along gendered lines, Jehn said.

The pay gaps are smallest among those with liberal arts degrees. But the relatively few women who go into math, engineerin­g and computer science make far less than their male colleagues, the authors found.

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