On this year’s annual Equal Pay Day back in April, Forbes reported that millennial women don’t think the wage gap — statistics showing women only earn 77 to 91 cents for every dollar made by a man — actually applies to them. “Boy, are they wrong,” read the Forbes story, highlighting a Stanford University study that revealed not only does the wage gap exist, but it’s more prominent among Ivy League graduates, with a woman who leaves business school today already experiencing a 7 percent wage gap upon graduation. Locally, Harvard’s annual Senior Survey, published last week, really put the point on that exclamation.
The Harvard survey, taken by more than half of the Harvard 2014 graduating class (758 students) and published by the student-run Harvard Crimson last week, showed that 19 percent of employed men said they will make a starting salary of $90,000 or more, compared to only 4 percent of employed women. And the gap gets even wider when broken down by industries traditionally predominated by men. Working men were more than twice as likely than working women to report that they would be going into finance, and of those going into finance, none of the women said they would earn $90,000 or more, compared to 29 percent of men going into finance. In addition, a plurality of women entering the technology or engineering sectors reported that they will make between $50,000 and $69,999, while their male counterparts said they will make between $90,000 and $109,999.
The sample size is small, but the Harvard paper reported similar trends in its 2013 survey, according to Boston.com, indicating that Harvard grads with jobs are nearly five times as likely to make $90,000 or more in starting salary if they’re male — and those numbers come from a pool of respondents that included more women than men, suggesting that the true tallies are in fact slightly more weighted in men’s favor.
The gap only widens over time, as the likelihood of a woman asking for a raise decreases as she progresses over the course of her career. A woman who doesn't negotiate her salary in her first job will lose an average of $431,000 by the time she’s 65. Clearly the wage gap is still a problem for millennial women, especially recent graduates, even at top schools where preparedness for the business world should not be an issue.
In Bentley’s own women in business study, six in 10 respondents said that enough is being done to prepare women for a career in business at the college or university level. Obviously, we need to do more to educate young women about the power of negotiation. We can show and share this LeanIn.org negotiation video with Stanford’s own Professor Margaret A. Neale, teaching the skills millennial women will need in order to strive for equal pay for equal work, or we can direct them toward employment opportunities at known Companies Where Women Thrive, like those striving for gender equity featured in our new weekly blog series.
Melissa Massello is a freelance writer, former startup executive, and serial entrepreneur passionate about supporting women’s leadership and gender equality, both in business and at home.