Young women are finally gaining the recognition in their pay packets that their higher qualifications merit, according to new research.
Figures show that women aged 22–29 now earn more, on average, per hour than men of the same age.
The figures were unearthed by Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admission Service, during research into the gender gap in education.
The women's lead in the pay stakes is still only slight – their median hourly pay is now just over £10 an hour compared with just under £10 an hour for men.
However, the statistic reverses a historic trend. Ms Curnock Cook said that 1997 the complete opposite was true.
She said that the figures could indicate that it had taken a long time for the fact that women were leaving school and university with better qualifications than men to filter its way into the workforce. She argued that it could lead to young couples deciding, after having a child, that the woman should become the breadwinner as she had greater earnings potential.
"The gender pay gap may take another generation to close as the pay feeds through to the more senior workforce," Ms Curnock Cook said. The figures show that the gender gap for hourly pay is also closing among 18–21-year-olds and 30–39-year-olds.
It is only among older workers – 40–49-year-olds, many of whom left school before the explosion in women's qualifications began – that men remain significantly ahead of women, earning just over £14 per hour on average while women earn just £12.
Overall, too, the gap between the additional income that women can expect to earn if they obtain a degree, and the extra men can expect, remained significant: £82,000 compared with £121,000.
Ms Curnock Cook, who was delivering a memorial lecture to the physicist Elizabeth Johnson at the Institute of Physics, stressed: "I wouldn't want anyone to think I've come and solved the gender gap in pay rates."
A number of factors could impact upon future earnings of men and women, she conceded.Reuse content