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Women’s Earning Discrepancy Due to Career Choices

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According to the US Census, women earn less than 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. One of the reasons for this difference may lie in the fact that women still tend to enroll in lower paying fields of study.

At the University of Mississippi, the Education Department consists of roughly 80 percent women and 20 percent men, The percentages are reversed in the Engineering Department. Considering the pay grades of those two career fields, the numbers become more significant.

On average, a teacher graduating from the University of Mississippi would make around $30,000 a year. An engineer graduating from the University could start out making up to $90,000. With all the talk about workplace equality, these statistics may shed light on the gap between pay for men and women.

According to Marni Kendricks, assistant dean of the Ole Miss School of Engineering, women may shy away from jobs perceived as being as demanding as that of an engineer.

“I think sometimes women, because they’re more interested in balancing a home life, family life and work life, choose to pursue careers that allow part-time work or a lesser commitment,” Kendricks said.

Some of this may date back to the origins of various professions. Kendricks pointed out that engineering began as manual labor — building bridges and blasting through mountains and other physically demanding jobs better suited to male upper body strength.

Many of these gender roles have carried over today, where the women in the School of Engineering have just begun to break long-standing records of female enrollment in the program.

Kendricks said of the increase, “If we’re at the 21 percent mark now, that’s the first time in the history of the school. We never seemed to have been able to get over the 20 percent mark until the last year or so.”

Part of that success may be due to the school’s recruiting efforts. Every year, the school hosts an “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” where high school girls spend a day on campus with a female engineering student. The goal is to entice young women enough to consider engineering as a potential career field. Still, says Kendricks, diversity is the goal but change will continue to come slowly.

“Based on the 100-year history of this school, it’ll take a long time before it’s really balanced,” Kendricks said. ”It’s certainly an open door for women, minorities and various types of people.”

Over the past ten years, the numbers of men versus women in both the Schools of Education and Engineering have become more balanced, with more men coming into the education program and more women choosing to enter the engineering field.

In the School of Education, Dr. David Rock says he’s less concerned about recruiting more men and more focused on attracting women into math and science education.

“It has to be cool to say ‘I’m a good math student,’” Rock said.

Rock said the school is not doing anything to recruit men specifically into the program, but trying to attract higher-achieving students.

The university reports that the average ACT score for the entire freshman class went from 24.0 in 2008 to 25.8 in 2013.According to the Institutional Research and Assessment Department at the university, numbers of women enrolled in degree programs overall have been steadily climbing.

“More females are enrolling in college and to me, the more interesting trend is that more and more are graduating,” Mary Harrington, a researcher, said.

According to last semester’s data, women currently make up 55 percent of undergraduate enrollment. These numbers have been on the rise for ten years and Harrington believes the trend will continue.

Sinclair Rishel, journalism student, Meek School of Journalism and New Media

You can email Sinclair at serishel@go.olemiss.edu

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