When we talk about wage inequality, the argument that often comes up is “Are we really talking about equivalent experience for an equivalent position? Women may have slowed down their career or taken time off when their children were born, these choices had an impact which explains the different wage evolution even for an equivalent position… Etc.”
There may be some truth in these arguments, but I don’t intend to cover that here. At least not yet.
Logically, we should not find a salary difference when leaving school?
Let’s have a look…….
The latest wage study conducted by the engineers and scientists society of France (IESF) showed a difference of almost 2k euros in starting salaries when the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE), mentions a 1.7k euros difference.
So, how can this be explained ? Firstly, graduate female engineers study predominantly in fields such as water, sanitation, agribusiness, etc. where wages are on average lower than other sectors of industry. Also, according to CGE and IESF, about 10% fewer women get a permanent employment placement for their first job !
Other reasons to understand this phenomenon are :
- Women are poorer at negotiating …
This may have been true before, but not so much now. Young women negotiate much better than their predecessors. But has this resulted in improved results for women ?
A recent study by HBR in Australia, which surveyed 4,600 employees, showed that women negociate just as much as men, but have less satisfactory results.
Another thing that surprised me, this time in the USA, a survey of 2500 people, found that when a job announcement does not say that the salary is negotiable, men would be more likely to negotiate than women. On the other hand, when it is explicit that salary is negotiable, women do negotiate more than men.
- Unconscious bias
Unfortunately, this exists for both the employer and employee. Many women are still not comfortable with the idea of earning more than their partner and would self-censor. On the side of the companies they anticipate that a woman will be less mobile, will require maternity leave and will eventually choose a better work-family balance, which could impact productivity.
In my case, I experienced at least 2 times salary discrimination on hiring. I did a thorough salary research when applying for the position and refused to budge on my requirements. I got the job at the requested salary, but with a big delay. I found out afterwards that I was really asking for a lot, which explained why they had hesitated to hire me. Another engineer was hired at the same time as me, same age, same experience but less relevant for the position. From the beginning, I was given more strategic projects than him. Then I discovered some time later that he was paid more. Needless to say that I did not stay much longer with this company.
The identification of the unconscious bias makes it conscious! Let’s inform young engineers to be aware of it and consequenctly to prepare for it (partake in negotiation training, for example) and let’s make sure that companies have a policy of hiring young graduates impartially..