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Women with PhDs reach pay equity with men, but big gaps remain for other grads

The wage gap has closed between women and men with newly earned PhDs but big gaps remain for people with lower levels of education, says new study from the University of Guelph.

Gap is greatest among employees in the trades where men on average earn 25 per cent more

A new study from the University of Guelph has found women and men with newly earned PhDs have pay equity. The study also shows that the lower the level of education, the bigger the gender pay gap. (AFP/Getty Images)

The wage gap has closed between women and men with newly earned PhDs, a new University of Guelph study says.

The study, which focuses on gender equity in the labour market, found that both male and female doctoral graduates earn about $70,000 annually during the first three years after convocation.

Professor David Walters says this is the first time that he has seen "no discrepancy in earnings" between men and women in Canada.

The authors attribute the equal incomes to strong collective agreements and proactive labour policies in the sectors PhD
graduates gravitate toward, such as academia and government.

Greatest gap in the trades

Published Monday in the journal Higher Education Policy, the study analyzed data from Statistics Canada's sweeping 2013 National Graduates Survey, which surveyed trades, college and university graduates three years after graduation — before factors such as maternity leave start to influence results.

However, the study also shows that the lower the level of education, the bigger the gender pay gap, and that on average only PhD graduates achieved income equity.

The gap is greatest among employees in the trades, where on average women earn $32,500 and men earn $40,500 — 25 per cent more.

Lead author Anthony Jehn says men tend to go into higher-paying trades, such as pipefitting or plumbing, whereas women lean more toward hairdressing or cosmetology.

More than one-third of all male graduates majored in the more lucrative fields of math, engineering or computer science, versus five per cent for women, helping explain the income disparity among bachelor's and master's degree holders.

Jehn says a "culture of gender inequality" in some male-dominated fields discourages women from entering. His findings show that greater pay equity exists for those who can afford to invest in education, a problem he says compounds class divisions along gendered lines.

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