STEM(ming) the pay gap.

Author:Grabmeier, Jeff
Position::ECONOMIC OBSERVER - Science, technology, engineering, mathematics

YOUNG WOMEN in STEM--science, technology, engineering, mathematics--fields earn less than men. One year after they graduate, women with Ph.D.s in science and engineering fields earn 31% less than do men, according to a new study using previously unavailable data. The pay gap dropped to 11% when researchers took into account that women tend to graduate with degrees in fields that generally pay less than fields in which men get their degrees. The rest of the pay gap disappears when the researchers control for whether women are married and have children.

"There's a dramatic difference in how much early-career men and women in the sciences are paid," says Bruce Weinberg, coauthor of the study and professor of economics at Ohio State University. "We can get a sense of some of the reasons behind the pay gap, but our study can't speak to whether any of the gap is due to discrimination. Our results do suggest some lack of family-friendliness for women in these careers."

The importance of helpful family policies is supported by the fact that single and childless women tend to have less of a pay gap than those who are married and those who have children. About equal percentages of men and women are married or partnered, and more men (24%) than women (19%) in the study had children, but it is the married women with children who see the lower pay.

"Our results show a larger child-gap in salary among women Ph.D.s than among men," Weinberg notes. "We can't tell from our data what's going on there. There's probably a combination of factors. Some women may consciously choose to be primary caregivers and pull back from work, but there may also be some employers putting women on a 'mommy track' where they get paid less."

Weinberg conducted the study--published in American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings-with Catherine Buffington and Benjamin Cerf of the U.S. Census Bureau and Christina Jones of the American Institutes for Research. The data for the study included Federal funding support the Ph.D. graduates received as students, the dissertations they wrote (this told researchers what scientific field they studied), and U.S. Census data on where they worked and how much they earned one year after graduation, as well as their marital and childbearing status.

Results showed clear differences in what men and women studied, with women clustered in the lower-paying fields. Overall, 59% of women completed dissertations in biology, chemistry, and health...

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