New research suggests recently graduated college men and women may have differing expectations concerning salaries and possibilities for promotions.
After surveying more than 23,000 university students, researchers found that the women both expected to be paid less and have to wait longer for a promotion than the men did.
While there has long been proof that women are typically paid less than equally qualified men, the results surprised researchers because these students are a part of the ‘millennial generation’ that is considered to be more egalitarian.
The gap in wage expectations widens over the course of their careers. After five years on the job, women anticipate their earnings to be 18 percent less than men.
There is also a wider expectation gap among women who plan to enter fields that are typically male-dominated, such as science and engineering.
Women also anticipate having to wait two months longer than men for their first promotion.
"It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg-situation," said study author Sean Lyons in a press release. "Women know that they currently aren't earning as much as men so they enter the workforce with that expectation. Because they don't expect to earn as much, they likely aren't as aggressive when it comes to negotiating salaries or pay raises and will accept lower-paying jobs than men, which perpetuates the existing inequalities."
"This study shows that women aren't blissfully ignorant and know the gender gap exists," he added.
However, he went onto explain that a number of other factors could be influencing the gender disparaties in job expectations.
For example, the men tended to overshoot what their starting salary would likely be. The women's answers were actually more realistic.
Also, women tended to weigh their personal lives more heavily when considering career expectations, while the men preferred priorities that were associated with higher salaries.
"It may be that women expect to trade off higher salaries for preferences in lifestyle,” Lyons said.
Despite their differing expectations, the study found women and men have the exact same levels of self confidence and self-efficacy.
"Our study shows women don't feel inferior to men and view themselves as every bit as capable as their male counterparts,” Lyons said.
Current strategies to improve workforce equality include increasing the number of women in male-dominated fields. Lyons also suggested advising post-secondary students on accurate salary information before they begin working.
"Professors and career counselors should make it a priority to provide students with accurate information regarding actual salaries and expected promotion rates for university graduates in their field," he said. "Awareness is essential to empowering these young women to think differently about the way they value themselves relative to their male colleagues."