Research Reveals 40% of Female College Students Have Low Earnings Expectations for Their First Job

Posted By Terri Williams on May 18, 2016 at 4:06 pm
Research Reveals 40% of Female College Students Have Low Earnings Expectations for Their First Job

Wage disparities among male and female college graduates continue to persist. Some of the disparities are a result of degree choice, for example, graduates majoring in business earn more than those with a humanities degree. However, recent research reveals that part of the gender wage gap could be a result of women going into their first jobs with lower earnings expectations than their male counterparts.

A new Adecco survey of Gen Z and Millennial students found distinct gender differences regarding salary expectations. The Adecco 2016 Way to Work Survey revealed the following information:

  • Nearly forty percent of women expect to earn less than $35,000 in their first job, compared to 34% of men
  • Women are more loyal regarding that first job: 63% think employees should stay in their first job between 2-3 years, compared to 54% of men
  • When asked to describe their job search, slightly more men were more likely to be optimistic (23% vs 19%), while more women were likely to be determined (24% vs 32%)
  • Women are more likely than men to have or expect to have no internships before graduation (20% vs 12%)
  • Women were more likely than men to consider moving because they “want a fresh start” (41% vs 32%)
  • Women were more likely to strongly agree that a college degree is necessary to obtain a well-paying job (51% vs 43%)
  • Women were slightly less optimistic that they will find a job within 5 months of graduating (74% vs 78%)

Expectations affect negotiations

GoodCall spoke with Joyce Russell, President of Adecco Staffing USA, about the significance of the survey’s results. “While talking about gender pay equality, the conversation can easily trend towards the perceived notion that women are more reluctant to negotiate than men,” says Russell.

She admits that this may be true for some women. “However, the results of our annual Way to Work Generational Survey show that salaries may actually be impacted by discrepancies between the salary expectations of men and women.”

Russell explains that candidates of both genders should have realistic expectations since those expectations will determine their negotiations. “I encourage every job seeker to research their individual job market to help gauge what salary to expect.” And Russell recommends that job seekers use such free tools as Glassdoor or the Adecco Staffing salary calculator.

College majors play a role

Gender expectations may also be the result of knowing the market value of a particular major. A Georgetown University report revealed the majors with the highest concentration of women paid significantly less than those dominated by men. Below are a few of those majors – along with median annual wages:

Majors Dominated by WOMEN Women Men Median Annual Wage
Early Childhood Education 97% 3% $36,000
Communication Disorders Sciences/Services 94% 6% $40,000
Elementary Education 91% 9% $40,000


Majors Dominated by MEN Men Women Median Annual Wage
Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering 97% 3% $82,000
Construction Services 92% 8% $70,000
Nuclear Engineering 91% 9% $104,630


Misplaced emphasis on soft skills

When considering other reasons why Gen Z and Millennial women may have lower salary expectations, Russell tells GoodCall that women tend to put more weight on soft skills versus hard skills – and this may present a problem when trying to negotiate a starting salary. “The survey revealed that women believe showing confidence is more important than expressing strong technical skills during an interview.”

She admits that it’s important to highlight soft skills in the interview process. “However, highly-specialized roles, which tend to be compensated with higher salaries, require candidates to demonstrate hard skills – and as such, I encourage women to place a greater emphasis on developing hard skills, while also understanding and communicating the tremendous value their soft skills bring to the workplace.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

You May Also Like