Wage gap too large to ignore

The fact that women make 78 cents over their lifetime to every dollar that men make over theirs has become well known in the last few years, but recent data from the U.S. Department of Education compiled by the New York Times paints an even grimmer reality.

According to the article, women enrolled at elite colleges are earning less than men across the board, even at colleges like Harvard and Stanford. The graph shows the average salaries of both men and women at 33 elite U.S. universities 10 years after enrollment. The largest gap between men and women’s earnings was at M.I.T., arguably the most prestigious technical college in the world, with a difference of $58,100 per year.

This contradicts the popular argument that women make less than men because they tend to choose less lucrative fields. Women are more often humanities majors than men, and are less-well represented in the tech, business and engineering fields, which often have the most well paying jobs. The most striking thing about the New York Times graph is that M.I.T., had the largest pay gap 10 years on. Perhaps even more depressing, the Times found that, at hundreds of institutions, more than half of graduates made less than $25,000 a year 10 years after enrollment, about what high school graduates make.

Why should we care? After all, SF State students’ median annual salary 10 years after entering the University is $46,900, and our graduation rate is only 46 percent, according the U.S. Department of Education. We should care because the gap is biggest at M.I.T., Harvard and Stanford, institutions whose graduates are the most privileged in the nation. Surely what affects women at the top schools affects women at lower-tier schools ever more.

What the article fails to do is account for the additional hurdles that women of color, women with disabilities and poor women have to navigate while fighting for fair wages.

While it is important for us to rally together and demand wage equality, it is even more important to hold politicians and corporations accountable for change. Change can only come from recognizing that the problem exists.