Graduate Gender Pay Gap Widens

28th September 2020

Posted In: The Topic

Female graduates in Ireland expect to earn up to 14% less than their male counterparts annually. The widening graduate gender pay gap was highlighted in the recent 2020 global talent market research by in partnership with employer brand specialist Universum.

Commenting on the findings, Orla Moran, General Manager at, said: “Despite the increased level of scrutiny on gender pay disparity, it is concerning to see that not only does a gap remain, it is widening instead of shrinking.”

The research, which was conducted among 11,769 students across the areas of business, IT, health, engineering and law, reveals a significant difference in the annual salary expectations of male and female graduates, particularly stark in the fields of law (12%), business (10.5%), and engineering (6%).

Industry breakdown

Despite the significant investments made by both Irish firms and global multinationals to encourage more females at undergraduate level to consider a career in the field of STEM, the gap is more evident in this sector according to Orla Moran.

Graduates in IT have the highest starting salary expectations among those surveyed, considering €37,579 to be an appropriate starting salary, a 4% increase on 2019 figures.

Looking at the gender split, male graduates of IT expect 14% or €5,008 more than female graduates of IT per year. Male graduates consider €39,409 an appropriate starting salary, while female graduates expect €34,401 per year on average.

“For employers, one of the most important steps to take in addressing pay disparities within their own organisation, is to ensure that their employer brand incorporates a clear and meaningful commitment to gender pay equality.

“Changes like providing salary information on job descriptions or being clear about pay scales at the start of the recruitment process, are some ways in which an organisation can demonstrate their commitment to fair and equal pay, which in turn will help to attract the best talent”, suggested Orla.

Graduates in law also have significantly differing salary expectations. Female graduates expect up to 12% (€5,037) less pay per year (€36,302) than their male counterparts, who expect €41,339 per year. This marks a 4% increase on the gap evident between female and male law graduate salary expectations in 2019.

A significant gap is evident among business graduates too, with male graduates expecting up to 10.5% (€3,804) higher salaries than their female counterparts, with each gender looking for €36,017 and €32,213 per year respectively.

A widening gender pay gap

“Our 2020 Universum research implies that gender pay disparity starts before graduates even enter the working world, with male graduates immediately expecting a stronger starting salary of between 6% and 14% more than their female peers,” Orla indicated.

“It is even more concerning to see that this is a marked increase on the previous year’s expectations – with the salary gap widening by four percent on 2019 figures to almost €5,400,” she added.

This is despite the significant progress being made by many Irish firms and global multinationals to close the gap by introducing career development and leadership programmes for female workers and flexible working options to ensure equality and allow for more female representation at a senior leadership level.

Later this year, the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill is set to be signed into law. Under the new legislation, companies who employ more than 250 people will be required to publish data on differences in gender pay and bonus and outline how they will tackle any potential disparity.

For male and female graduates exploring potential job opportunities at the companies to which this legislation applies, it will provide a new level of transparency and insight into the programmes in place to tackle any gender pay disparities.

It could even spark a shift in expectations among graduates, particularly among female graduates, who could be more likely to consider working for companies with a narrower gender pay gap or better programmes in place to address the issue.

“Ahead of the introduction of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill later this year, small actions by individual companies now are a good first step to ensuring that the gender pay gap shrinks rather than grows, and that our graduates and future leaders feel empowered to reach their full potential, regardless of gender.

While education institutions could consider how they can support female students so they start their careers with similar salary expectations to their male counterparts”, Orla concluded.