The gender pay gap is largely understood by economists to be an enduring problem in the labor market, but the causes continue to spark debate.
Occupational sorting, or how women and men sift themselves into traditional "female" and "male" jobs, is one explanation for why women earn about 20 percent less than men. Those divisions begin even before Americans hit the workforce, according to a new study from employment site Glassdoor. It found that college majors lead to a significant difference in what men and women earn five years after graduation.
Even though almost six out of 10 bachelor's degrees are awarded to women, college majors that lead to high-paying jobs in fields like engineering tend to be dominated by men, the study noted. Yet even when men and women study the same subject in college, men often are making more than their female counterparts five years later. One reason: Women are hired for lower-paying roles within the same field.
"You would expect new grads to find a level playing field when it comes to pay, but they generally don't," said Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor chief economist, in a statement. "Glassdoor's analysis shows an 11.5 percent average pay gap among new grads in the early years of their careers."
The gaps remain even when workers are examined by their college major, which Chamberlain pointed to as "a clear sign of societal pressures and gender norms at play in the career paths of young workers."
Some of the biggest pay gaps witnessed by recent grads with the same college majors are among traditionally male fields, the research found.
"We can now see significant pay gaps emerging from the same majors -- and that's a major problem," said Dawn Lyon, Glassdoor vice president of corporate affairs and chief equal pay advocate.
The findings stress the importance of educating recent grads about salary negotiation techniques, as well as employer training on hiring and recruiting, she added.
While women with college degrees on average face a pay gap of 11.5 percent five years after graduation, in about 10 fields young women out-earn their males colleagues. The top one is architecture, where women make 14 percent more than men, followed by music, where women's paychecks are 10 percent fatter than their male colleagues'.
On average, men are earning $56,957 annually five years after they get their college degree, compared with $50,426 for women.