equal pay

Why do new female college grads earn 17% less than men?

May 16, 2011: 10:26 AM ET

Women earn 57% of four-year degrees and are hired at a higher rate than men. Yet their pay lags their male counterparts, even in identical jobs.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

FORTUNE -- If you're a woman about to graduate from college (or have a daughter who is), the National Association of Colleges and Employers has some disconcerting news for you.

First, the bright side: You probably won't have more trouble finding a job than the guy sitting next to you. In almost every year since 1994, unemployment among female grads has been lower than for their male counterparts. In 2010, it was 8.1% for women, versus 10.3% for men.

Great, but here's the rub: Even if you snag the exact same job as your male classmate, you'll probably get paid 17% less.

At least, that's what happened last year. NACE research director Ed Koc analyzed starting salaries of 2010 bachelor's degree graduates and found that women pulled down an average of $36,451, vs. $44,159 for men.

You might suppose that's a result of men choosing majors that lead to higher-paying jobs. But the NACE study found that men usually come out ahead even in the same fields. One exception: Engineering. Because only about 18% of engineering grads are female, women engineers "are highly sought-after 'commodities' and command a premium price," NACE reports. More

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