Northern Ireland news

Gender pay largest among graduates of selective universities

Women who studied at Russell Group institutions earned around 17 per cent less than their male peers

THE gender pay gap between graduates is largest among those who attend the most selective universities, a report has found.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) said women who studied at Russell Group institutions earned around 17 per cent less than their male peers.

Its report said the particularly large difference in the earnings of male and female graduates from the elite universities was "striking".

Women were found to be earning less than men in all higher education types, but the pay gap between graduates from post-1992 institutions was only 5 per cent.

In specialist institutions, the difference was 16 per cent.

HEPI said the Russell Group, of which Queen's University Belfast is a member, should investigate the reasons for the large disparity and take action.

The overall graduate gender pay gap cold not be accounted for by subject of study, type of university attended, prior attainment, social background or ethnicity, the report concluded.

The report explored possible reasons. It found men were more willing than women to meet future employers, obtain internships and ask for referrals.

"It may be that by building a rapport with future employers, men are in a better position than women to gain better paid jobs, and to negotiate higher salaries. This may be exacerbated by possible unconscious employer bias against female candidates," the report suggested.

It also found that male students rated earning a high salary and seniority as most important, whereas female students were more likely to identify stability, a good work-life balance, company culture and contributing to a cause they feel is worthwhile.

"These differences in aspiration may contribute to the pay disparities between male and female graduates," the report said.

HEPI is now urging employers to ensure their recruitment and remuneration policies are fair.

It said the government should ensure its evaluation of universities does not rely on data with gender biases.

"Higher education provides women with an earnings premium compared to their non-graduate counterparts but, as this new analysis shows, female graduates still consistently earn less than male graduates," said report co-author Rachel Hewitt.

"There are some areas of particular concern, such as the large pay gap between male and female graduates of Russell Group universities. However, even among groups where the gap is smaller, such as among graduates of post-92 universities, the gender pay gap persists.

"We should be clear, particularly to the significant number of young women who now enter higher education, that the graduate gender pay gap is unacceptable and work together to combat it."

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