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Women's salaries peak at certain point while men's continue to grow

New data from payscale.com has been released that suggests that women are most likely to reach their peak salary 25 years before they retire. However, men’s salaries continue to grow even.

This is according to several factors, including choice of career, wage gap and men being seen as the primary source of money for the family, all of which Alison Bernstein, the director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership Consortium (IWL), said is unsurprising.

“I'm not surprised by this finding,” Bernstein said. “There has been a great deal of research that suggests that women’s careers continue to be problematic so long as men are not taking up the real responsibilities of parenting and home and dependent care and all the ways in which women even in the workforce are expected to take on those roles, and that hasn’t changed nearly enough.”

Bernstein and the rest of the employees at IWL work to help young women at Rutgers realize their potential.

“Here at Rutgers, we do have programs to help younger women and women in corporations to challenge the way the pay structure disadvantages them, and a lot of that has to do with what I call negotiation skills. It has to do with standing up for your own value or worth, and there are training programs and educational programs, especially the one that we pioneered called the "Leadership Scholars,” Bernstein said. 

The purpose is to help women find their voice and get their footing, she said.

Another factor in this equation is the gender wage gap.

“Women today at Rutgers have knowledge about the gender wage gap,” said Yana Rodgers, a professor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies. “If anything, what they can control besides children, for the gender wage gap, is negotiation for their salary packages. That’s another reason for the gender wage gap.”

The job gap affects the peaked salary as well. Jobs that interest a high number of women are low promotion and not as specialized, so the chance of a raise peaks due to this, she said.

“Women are choosing jobs that have more flexibilities so that they can have kids and work at the same time, and the flexibility can come at a price," Rodgers said. “Sometimes it’s women leaving their job for a little while because of childbirth and coming back to lower paying jobs. The main reason in the U.S. for the gender wage gap is children. It’s actually called the 'mommy tax.' It’s a real tax to having children.”

Bernstein noticed that the gender wage gap was not amiss as a professor.

“Even in academia, which is supposed to be gender neutral or have a commitment to gender equity, there are examples of all of this,” Bernstein said. “For example, women often reach associate professor with tenure and never get up to the top. And so, they (are) stuck in that associate professor rank more typically than men. Their salaries therefore, don’t continue to rise.”

Rodgers studies labor economics and the gender wage gap. Like Bernstein, she believes that the gender gap is caused due in part because men are still seen as the breadwinners of the household, while the women are the ones who take care of the children.

“I don't think women will change their career paths based off of the information that they cannot easily branch up, but I do believe that salaries have an effect on the jobs that one chooses,” said Desiree Williams, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

Williams looked at the data presented as a first-year student and decided to take on another major.

“I looked for a second major early on because I knew that my first major needed a second degree to find a job in that field," Williams said. “But these decisions had nothing to do with the wage gap, rather the average starting salary for certain positions.”

Career choices are shaped largely by opportunities, by network and what young women are learning at Rutgers about their opportunities, Rogers said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that women are now in the workforce in unprecedented numbers," Bernstein said. “The more women in the workforce, and the more women that have opportunities to join unions, which has the history of fighting for better pay equity scales, the more optimistic I can get.”

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