Andrea Skimbo, career counselor for the Center for Career and Professional Development, talks at the "Negotiating the Women's Wage Gap" event hosted by the Women’s Center on Feb. 28, 2017, in Maginnes Hall. One of the issues discussed at the event was the wage gap at Lehigh. (Aminat Ologunebi/B&W Staff)

Median salary for Lehigh grads higher for men than women

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There is a $24,400 difference in median salary between male and female Lehigh graduates aged 34.

Data taken by The New York Times’ “The Upshot” outlines various economic information, including the type of students attending Lehigh, students’ performance after graduation and jumps taken between income gaps.

“The Upshot” shows a total median salary of $81,200 for graduates aged 34. The men’s median is $90,900, while the median of their female counterparts is $66,500. The average woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man makes in Pennsylvania.

“People don’t know exactly why,” Women’s Center director Rita Jones said. “Is it childbearing issues? Is it women changing roles? Or is it some of the sexism that influences policy and promotion that people are not even conscious of?”

The lack of promotions and larger salaries for women may be influenced by the “mommy tax,” Jones said. She said what often happens is women begin moving into more typically male-dominated fields, such as engineering. The average salary usually declines within those fields as hiring equals out between genders.

This is contrasted by the “daddy bonus.” According to the National Youth Survey studying labor from 1976 to 2006, men earn an average of six percent more income after having children while women lose four percent of their income for each child. Between the taxes and bonuses, college-educated women can stand to lose up to $1 million in lost wages and benefits over their careers.

“It’s capitalism,” Jones said. “If that’s driving a lot of the decisions, then of course they’re not going to make that bottom line go down.”

Jones said in different offices on campus, both genders in positions like directors and assistants make equal amounts. The wage gap begins to open at positions like dean and vice provost.

“I think part of that is because of what is called the ‘feminization’ of a job,” Jones said. “When it is overwhelmingly women in a field, those fields seem to be devalued and everybody makes less money.”

Jones said computer programmers used to be mostly women who would input data. Suddenly, men moved into the field and salaries began to skyrocket. Computer science is now dominated by men who receive high salaries.

Andrea Skimbo, career counselor with the Center for Career and Professional Development, said negotiating salary during a job interview is one of the first steps toward getting rid of this feminization. She said most people feel grateful for any job offers they receive, leading women to feel like they’re being pushy or overly-aggressive when they try to negotiate.

“A big part of this is understanding what’s a fair salary,” Skimbo said. “Is the number you received fair? A lot of people say, ‘I want more.’ Sure, we all want more, but you only have leverage when you understand what’s a fair number and what isn’t.”

Skimbo said women preparing for interviews should look at the average salaries for the position they’re being given, both nationally and within their residential area. While it’s hard to walk away from what could be one of the first offers in a long time, students shouldn’t be afraid to walk away from an unfair offer.

On Tuesday, the Women’s Center hosted an event called “Negotiating the Women’s Wage Gap.” An accounting student at the event said during an interview with a company, she was asked about her desired salary. She didn’t say the average salary listed on Glassdoor, which is $43,316 nationally and $50,473 for Allentown. Instead, she said $50,000, which she considered reasonable. When it came time for a final interview, she didn’t make the cut.

Skimbo said by applying negotiation skills to an understanding of the wage gap, college women can help to decrease that gap between men and women.

“I want us to be the generation that starts to close this gap,” Skimbo said. “It’s going to come from educating yourself, understanding what’s fair and how you negotiate, doing it professionally and making decisions that have your best interests in mind. That is certainly OK to do when you are agreeing to a lifestyle and salary you’re going to live on.”

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