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American Women Earning Less: The Salary Gap in the United States

June 2012

By Sari Wakefield, Manager, Digital Communications, AACSB International

It is obvious that women today are more than mothers and homemakers. In fact, they are one of the fastest growing segments of MBA students in the United States. Such as at Harvard, where managing director of MBA admissions Deirdre Leopold projects that 39% of its class of 2013 will be female. At Wharton, 45% of the incoming class is anticipated to be female.1 This also is the situation at many of the top ranked MBA programs in the U.S. For instance, all of the schools on Businessweek's top 10 U.S. MBA programs list had 30% or more women that were enrolled as of 2010–2011.2 Women also are graduating with an MBA at about the same rate. For instance, according to AACSB data, 36.8% of MBA graduates in the United States in 2010–2011 were women. So with all this education … why isn't a women's salary increasing as fast as her rate of educational attainment?

No one really knows the answer to this question. The assumption is that companies and organizations are generally offering women less money annually and increasing their pay at much slower rates than men. This salary equality problem seems to be very apparent in the United States, as noted by the annual day set aside in April—National Equal Pay Day. This year's National Equal Pay Day received significant media coverage and public attention as researchers continued to report significant salary differences between men and women for the same jobs. For instance, in a GMI Rating study that explored data from public U.S. companies it was found that female chief financial officers (CFO) are earning "significantly less than men" in the same role. The research study indicated that women CFOs are receiving 16.3% less than their male counterparts. The study's methodology included a variety of variables that could cause the differences in pay in hopes of eliminating factors that may influence the findings3. Gender salary studies are increasingly displaying similar results—including studies that are being directed by the U.S. Federal Government, which estimates that there is a 77% wage gap between men and women in the country.

In the world of management education, there is a pay gap between men and women as well. Some viewpoints believe this may be the result of the performance system at U.S. business schools. That is, a system that rewards research versus teaching capabilities. Whereas, teaching has always been a strong skill set for most female faculty. To explore the potential pay gap within the U.S. management education industry, AACSB salary data has been gathered for the last 10 years based on gender, discipline, and faculty rank. In Figure 1 below, salaries for accounting professors at AACSB member in the United States have been graphed (n = 310).

Figure 1.
Hover over the graph below to view salary figures for accounting professors for male and female during the past decade. Figures are displayed by academic year in U.S. dollars.

As Figure 1 displays, female accounting professors in the U.S. have consistently earned less than their male counterparts. For example, the most recent data from 2011–2012 indicates female accounting professors average 140,500 USD per contract whereas male accounting professors average 150,600 USD per contract. That is a 10,100 USD difference in wages for the same position.

Since it is true that women have been traditionally less represented in the discipline of accounting, the same salary data for marketing, management, and organizational behavior professors for the past 10 years has been explored. See Figures 2, 3, and 4.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Figure 4.

(Source: AACSB International. 2002–2003 to 2011–2012 Global Salary Survey.)

Within the disciplines of marketing, management, and organizational behavior, the disparities between gender salaries also are present. However, there is an interesting trend showing in the fields of marketing and management. In both fields, female professor salaries become nearly equal at certain time points. However, the equalities quickly disappear as male salaries seemingly increase over female salaries from year to year.

In the future, analyzing salaries in the United States between men and women will continue to be interesting, particularly as an increasing number of women with graduate level degrees enter the workforce and academic settings.


1. (2011, August 19). More Women Head to School for MBAs. U.S. News & World Report.

2. (2011). Business School Rankings Profiles. Businessweek.

3. (2012, April 3). Hodgson, P. Female Chief Financial Officers Underpaid by 16% on Average. Forbes.

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