Graduate gender pay gap remains pervasive, says Hepi

The pay gap is particularly pronounced among graduates from Russell Group and specialist institutions, say the report’s authors

Female graduates still consistently earn less than their male counterparts, according to a report on the gender pay gap published today (November 12) by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

‘Mind the (graduate gender pay) gap’ analyses new and historical records to interrogate the persistence of the earnings disparity, and finds:

  • Women expect less pay than men
  • Despite the disparity in pay, men and women are equally satisfied in their work
  • Men begin to plan their careers earlier, apply for more jobs, and are more speculative in what they pursue
  • Women, by contrast, are both likelier to be offered a job once interviewed and to be unemployed on graduating. This, says, the report, shows that women are either more efficient or less ambitious in their job searches
  • While men’s greater willingness to be geographically mobile probably enhances career prospects, increased mobility of women is deemed unlikely to significantly reduce the difference in pay
  • Women are more likely to work part-time – both during and immediately after their degree – while men’s greater propensity for completing an internship during their degree offers a possible advantage when applying for jobs
  • For more men than women, a high salary indicates a good job. Women, meanwhile, are likelier to seek job security, work-life balance, and a job which they deem as contributing to the greater good

“At the time of writing this report I was also a female PhD student, searching for jobs,” said report co-author, Bethan Cornell, a former intern at HEPI.

“I cannot stress enough how much working on this project, and the conclusions we made, completely changed my attitude to job hunting.

“Seeing the difference in confidence levels and values between the average male and female graduates has assured me that I have the right to be ambitious in terms of pay, and that I should be more assertive in applying for higher-paid roles.


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“While writing the report,” she added, “I made a successful application to a well-paid role that I definitely would not have even considered applying to before starting this research.

“By the time this press release is being read I will have left HEPI and started my new career. I am living proof that disseminating facts to students enables them to make better informed choices and, if we want to address inequities in society, then we must make sure everyone concerned is clear on the facts.”

To that end, the report makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Higher education institutions should educate students information about the graduate gender pay gap, thus helping them make more informed decisions about their career planning
  • Universities should make special efforts to help female students undertake internships
  • Russell Group and specialist institutions should investigate – and act upon – the reasons for the especially large earnings disparity between their male and female graduates
  • Employers’ organisations should alert their members to the report’s findings, not least the call to introduce name-blind recruitment to prevent the possibility of unconscious bias
  • Employers should make particular efforts to provide internship and networking opportunities for women
  • The relative pay of male and female graduates should be included among the indicators of ranking bodies
  • Because of the gendered impact, the government, ranking compilers and others should not use comparative earnings as a measure of the worth of programmes or the quality of institutions

“This report clearly highlights how pervasive the graduate gender pay gap is,” said Rachel Hewitt, HEPI’s director of policy and advocacy and report co-author.

“Female graduates still consistently earn less than male graduates. There are some areas of particular concern, such as the large pay gap between male and female graduates of Russell Group universities. However, even among groups where the gap is smaller, such as among graduates of post-92 universities, the gender pay gap persists.

“This report should be seen as a call for action, for employers to ensure their hiring and renumeration policies are fair, for universities to help students overcome gendered differences, and for government to ensure its evaluation of universities does not rely on data with underlying gender biases. We should be clear, particularly to the significant number of young women who now enter higher education, that the graduate gender pay gap is unacceptable and work together to combat it.”


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