The Washington Post's "On Leadership" blog features an article by Barnard President Debora Spar, as part of a round-up of college and university presidents' perspectives on women, leadership, and higher education. In her piece, "Why our brightest female graduates are still at a disadvantage," President Spar raises issues of lingering gender inequity and sexism in the United States' higher education system and in campus culture. An excerpt:
"When the American Association of University Women released a study in October finding that young women make only 82 percent of what their male peers do just one year out of college, many were at a loss to explain it.
All the traditional reasons typically trotted out to interpret the pay gap — that women fall behind when they leave the workforce to raise kids, for example, or that they don’t seek as many management roles — failed to justify this one. These young women didn’t have kids yet. The study took account of the differences in their academic majors. And because they were just one year removed from their undergraduate degrees, few of these women yet had the chance to go after (much less decline) leadership roles.
But there are other reasons why the pay gap remains so persistent, even in the very earliest stage of a young person’s career. The first is that no matter how many women may be getting college degrees, the university experience is still an unequal one. The second is that our higher-education system, for better and for worse, is not designed to focus on the economic consequences of our students’ years on campus."