Pay disparity ... salary differences between male and female university graduates is widening according to a recent study by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Photo: Ryan Osland
THE pay gap between male and female university graduates is growing with figures showing the difference more than doubled to $5000 last year.
A study released by the Australian government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency found the median gap in starting salaries for graduates increased from $2000 in 2011 to $5000 last year.
The disparity was the largest in architecture and building occupations, at 17.3 per cent. The starting salary for male graduates was $52,000 compared with $43,000 for women.
Female dentistry graduates earned 15.7 per cent or $14,000 less than men whose median starting salary was $92,000.
The starting salary for female law graduates was $50,700 compared with $55,000 for men.
The agency's research executive manager, Carla Harris, said there was no adequate explanation for the difference. ''There's absolutely no logical reason why a male graduate would be seen as better than a female graduate.''
The study examined starting salaries in 23 occupations and found men earned more than women in 13 fields. The pay was the same in education, humanities and medicine. The study analysed figures from Graduate Careers Australia.
Female graduates earned more in seven occupations, including pharmacy and earth and computer sciences. But these gaps were generally smaller than occupations that favoured men.
Dr Harris said it would take a big change in corporate culture to reduce the gap. ''It needs to have leadership and accountability from the CEOs and business leaders,'' she said. ''At the top of many corporations are a bunch of men.''
Dr Harris said employers tended to hire people who were like them. ''People like homogeneity. They like more of the same. It makes them feel comfortable and reduces conflict.''
A separate study, by the American Sociological Association, found employers at elite firms favoured people like themselves.
The research from the school of management at Northwestern University in the US showed bosses at these companies chose candidates with whom they would like to be friends.
Dr Harris said all businesses should review their starting salaries to ensure they were fair. ''We need to fix the culture and embedded discrimination within our companies.''
An associate professor in architecture and design at RMIT, Esther Charlesworth, said architecture had traditionally been a ''pretty blokey profession''.
''There is a perception that male architecture graduates are more useful because they can be on site dealing with contractors,'' she said.
Dr Charlesworth, who finished her degree in 1989, said most of the women she graduated with were no longer practising architects. She said architecture had since become more welcoming for women but men still occupied the top positions at large firms.
An associate professor in management at Monash University, Anne Bardoel, said graduates should be recognised for their work rather than gender. ''If somebody is actually doing the work, whether they're male or female, they should be getting the same pay,'' she said.
Professor Bardoel said the findings were surprising given that female students often outperformed their male peers.
Monica Hope, who finished her law studies in 2011, said disparity in pay had never been an issue she had considered. She began working as a junior lawyer last July and had never experienced any gender gap in her pay.
''I've never been noticeably faced with any inconsistency at all,'' she said. ''I really haven't felt that pay rates for men and women has been a consideration.''