Women graduates expect to make less money

Is the pay gap a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Female university graduates expect to make a lot less money than their male counterparts, according to a new study of 23,000 Canadian university students that will be published in the journal Industrial Relations. Women predicted that their starting salaries will be 14 per cent lower than their male counterparts had predicted and expected to make 18 per cent less five years later. In reality, university-educated women make 32 per cent less than men in Canada, according to a press release from the University of Guelph. One explanation is that the pay gap is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Women might not be as aggressive in contract negotiations as men, because they’re aware that other women make less, suggests Guelph business professor Sean Lyons, who conducted the study with Linda Schweitzer of Carleton University and Ed Ng of Dalhousie University. Another explanation is that women are inherently more realistic; the study bears this out, as women’s expectations were much closer to reality. A third possibility is that women are less concerned with big paycheques. “It may be that women expect to trade off higher salaries for preferences in lifestyle,” said Lyons. After all, the study found that women and men have equal self-efficacy. Whatever the explanation, Lyons says that all post-secondary students need access to better salary data.

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