How the Gender Pay Gap Can Start in College

Image Credit: LukaTDB/E+/GettyImages

Equality of opportunity should be a given, especially when you're just embarking on your working life. About half the population can say otherwise, however. The gender pay gap is real, thanks a number of intertwined and sometimes complicated factors. One of them, as a new paper underscores, begins with college internships.

Researchers and, crucially, administrators at Binghamton University have just released a study showing a significant disparity in which students get paid for internship opportunities. Nearly 60 percent of men earned a paycheck from these placements, which often serve the function that entry-level jobs once did. In contrast, only 35 percent of women were paid for their internships. When the team broke down the statistics, it found that women were fully 34 percent less likely than men to get financial support for these positions.

We already live in a time where mothers are disproportionately burdened with child care responsibilities, which leads many to either drop out of the workplace or to take on less personally or financially rewarding careers. These can reverberate through a woman's entire working life, much like being unable to take on an unpaid internship because of costs exacerbates workplace diversity issues from the ground up.

The Binghamton researchers recommend that industries and college career centers alike do some self-examination to eradicate these types of built-in bias. Hiring managers have a lot of power in this setting, and other research has lots of suggestions for breaking out hiring ruts. One good way to start, however, is finding ways to actually pay your interns.