The gender wage gap is 3 times wider for Ivy League grads. Here's why.

Largely driven by the careers Ivy League grads pursue

According to a recent study by the Equal Opportunity Project, female graduates from Ivy League schools end up making 30% less than their male counterparts by age 34. 

That's significantly wider than the average wage gap between 34-year-old men and women, which is 10%. In an article for The Atlantic, Caroline Kitchener asked several experts to weigh in on the reasons for the gender wage gap—and why it's so much more extreme for Ivy League graduates.

Career choice

Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University, partially attributes the gap to the careers Ivy League grads usually choose.

Industries like finance, law, and management consulting tend to have the largest gender wage gaps—and these are the industries that Ivy League students overwhelmingly pursue.

Limited flexibility

Unfortunately, these extremely lucrative industries come at a high price—they lack flexibility. "These are jobs where you can't really reduce your hours," writes Goldin. "When clients say they want you at 2 in the morning, you have to be there."

Because of this lack of flexibility, female employees can find it difficult to juggle work and family responsibilities. "When a woman has a kid, rather than reducing her hours, she leaves, or moves somewhere else—to an NGO or smaller firm," Goldin writes. Women in these roles don't have the option to work part-time, so they often scale back their careers.

This leaves more males in high-level roles, further widening the wage gap.

Another career path where women make less? Academia

Marriage

Goldin explains that by 34 years old, many female Ivy League grads are attached to a romantic partner. In most cases, women are the ones expected to be flexible and adapt to their partner's careers.

"Many [Ivy League females] marry wealthy partners—students from their own universities or others like it," Kitchener writes. "When women have children, they're more able to leave the workplace—or take a lower-paying part-time job—if they have alternate sources of financial support."

A study by Goldin and Lawrence Katz on graduates from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business supports this reasoning. Five years after having a child, the study found, women who had married wealthy men made an average of $200,000 less than they would have if they had not married a high-earning husband. The study did not look into same-sex partnerships.

Only 26% of college presidents are female

Negotiation

Unfortunately, there are aspects of these high-paying jobs beyond their lack of flexibility that benefit men more than women—including their reliance on self-advocacy and negotiation.

Promotion practices in these high-paying jobs are "generally more standardized at the lower end of the wage spectrum for any given field," writes Kitchener. This means that as both men and women advance in the workplace, they increasingly must advocate for themselves, something Kitchener argues "women struggle with more than men."

Women do not negotiate as readily as men, and when they do, Kitchener writes, they aren't as likely to get good results.

Francine Blau, an economics and labor relations professor at Cornell University, explains, "There is this idea that, if you negotiate and push yourself forward, that's not appropriate female behavior" (Kitchener, The Atlantic, 2/2).

A female college president speaks about gender, academia, and leadership


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