Top female employees earn an average of £6,500 a year less than their male counterparts five years after leaving university, latest government figures have revealed.
Women’s salaries are marked at £31,000 on average across a range of graduate professions – 18 per cent lower than men, who earn an average of £37,500.
Analysing data from 236,630 men and women who graduated in the 2008-09 academic year, the statistics are the first of their kind to track university leavers and their wages according to gender.
While men and women were found to be earning the same or similar pay during the first year after graduatation, the gap increased with each year of employment and was particularly noticeable in the upper wage range industries.
By year three, high earning women were found to be earning almost 15 per cent less - £26,500 compared to £31,000 for men.
Five years after graduating, the lowest earning men were found to have overtaken women completely – earning an average of £20,000 compared to £17,500.
The DfE report also noted that Black and Asian British-Pakistani graduates earned the lowest average salaries five years after graduation.
Commenting on the figures, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, called the gender pay gap a "huge waste of potential".
She said: “We have the best educated female workforce that we have ever had but these figures show that we are just not getting them into the right roles at the right levels.
"The pay gap is a productivity gap. We need to end occupational segregation and open up senior roles to flexible & part-time work.”
Asking students to estimate their starting salary post-graduation, the National Student Money Survey reported that women expect to make over £3,300 a year less than their male equivalents, indicating they may be "primed" to expect lower earnings from a young age.
A Trade Union Congress (TUC) report earlier this year also found that women earn less than their male peers at every stage of their careers.
TUC head, Frances O’Grady, said the figures suggested the UK was almost half a century off achieving equal pay.
A Government spokesman said: “No woman should be held back just because of her gender. We now have the lowest gender pay gap on record, and we are working to get more women into the top jobs at our biggest companies.
“But we know there’s more to do – that’s why we are requiring employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap for the first time from April and we are working to get more girls studying science, technology, engineering and maths subjects so that they get into more lucrative professions when they are older.”
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