Female Stanford MBA students earn 79c on the dollar compared to male peers

Women who obtain MBAs from the Graduate School of Business (GSB) earn 79 cents on the dollar compared to male graduates, the largest earnings gender gap among elite business schools in the nation, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek research published in December 2012. But representatives and students at the GSB have doubts about the Bloomberg survey results, despite their belief that it sheds light on an important national issue.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek conducted surveys of recent business school graduates for its biennial rankings of full-time master’s in business administration (MBA) programs. The study tracked the gender wage gap at the top 30 business schools, including The Wharton School, Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB.

Stanford’s GSB has the largest gap in earnings between men and women of any of the schools surveyed. On average, a female GSB student from Stanford earns $32,768 less than her male classmates, which is a greater disparity than the overall U.S. workforce’s gender wage gap.

Female to male earnings stand at 86 percent at Wharton, 103 percent at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business and 82 percent in the overall U.S. workforce, compared to Stanford’s 79 percent.

Pulin Sanghvi, director of the MBA Career Management Center at the GSB, said the gender gap is an important national and global issue that should receive more attention.

“I think that all of us who have spent time working in industry would acknowledge that there is still significant distance to travel in achieving true gender equality in the workplace,” Sanghvi said.

Still, some at the GSB claim that the reason for disparity has less to do with gender discrimination than it does with career choices.

“The primary cause of the salary gap is the differences in choice of industry,” said Carly Janson, senior associate director of the Career Management Center.

Universum’s 2011 annual survey of choices in places to work shows that women prefer to work at companies such as Google, Johnson & Johnson and Disney, where compensation is generally lower than at investment banks such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. Along the same line, the 2012 Employment Report shows that GSB women are more highly represented in sectors that pay employees less.

“Female students have a higher representation in industries such as consumer products, media and internet technology –industries with relatively lower compensation — over high-compensation fields like investment banking,” Janson said.

In addition to this dimension, Sangvhi pointed out that in the technology sector, equity and stock options are major components of compensation, which can skew the wage comparison.

Maile Lesica M.B.A. ’13 and Shalie Gaskill M.B.A. ’13 are both female students at the GSB who are considering working for non-finance companies. Lesica is considering an offer from Shopbop, a women’s apparel and accessories retailer, while Gaskill has accepted an offer from Box, a cloud management company.

“Even though retail might not pay as much as other industries like banking, I would never pick a profession that I like less,” Lesica said. “You don’t choose your career based on wage.”

“Stanford does a good job at helping you figuring out what you are passionate about,” added Gaskil. “I would have actually hated it if the school had pressured women into taking higher-paying jobs.”

Both women feel that the apparent wage gap is due much more to different interests in industry than to negligence on GSB’s part.

“It’s not like Stanford has failed at helping its female students find high-paying jobs. I have girlfriends who are rocking it in finance right now. I just happen to want to work in tech,” Gaskill said.

Stanford’s class size is also significantly smaller than peer schools’.

“The GSB class is half the size of the class at peer schools, which makes our numbers more sensitive and causes an amplification of the wage gap,” Janson said.

Despite a larger wage gap, both GSB female and male students earn the highest salaries compared to peer schools. GSB women earn $121,945 while GSB men earn $154,713, compared to $115,651 (female) and $129,219 (male) at Harvard or $115,713 (female) and $135,021 (male) at Wharton.

“Would these statistics have made me choose another school over Stanford? No way. Despite the apparent bigger gap, overall our students earn more,” Gaskill said.

But both Sangvhi and Janson note that income and monetary achievements are only a part of gender empowerment.

“The biggest factor that I pay attention to is whether our students feel they are able to achieve their first choice jobs,” he said.

 A previous version of this article stated that Maile Lesica and Shalie Gaskill work for ShopBop and Box. In fact, both women are currently full-time students and have offers from the respective companies. The Daily regrets the error.