Gender Wage Gap May Be 'Genetic,' Says Higher Ed Official

A Florida higher education official came under fire this week when he suggested that the gender pay gap and women lacking the skills to negotiate could be genetic.

Ed Morton, a member of the State University System of Florida’s Board of Directors, made the comments on Tuesday during a board meeting, at which time members were discussing employment and salaries of graduates.

According to Politico, Morton said:

“Something that we’re doing in Naples [with] some of our high school students, we’re actually talking about incorporating negotiating and negotiating skill into curriculum so that the women are given maybe some of it is genetic, I don’t know, I’m not smart enough to know the difference but I do know that negotiating skills can be something that can be honed, and they can improve.”

The board’s report shows that women graduates who are employed full time make a median salary of $37,000 $5,500 less than their male counterparts, who make an average of $42,500.

Data for the report came from information on the 60,333 graduates from the State University Data System (SUDS).

While rates vary by state, women make roughly 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. In 2015 the median income for a woman was $40,742, versus $51,212 for a man. When compared to those numbers, Florida’s female graduates are doing better than the average woman, as they make about 87 cents to the man’s dollar.

Morton further suggested that the gap would close on its own overtime.

“Some of it will probably be a little bit self-correcting, because we’re graduating many more women than we are men from university systems nationwide,” he said.

But the report’s data indicates otherwise. From 2014 to 2015 the median salary for males went up 9 percent but women’s only went up 7 percent, widening the pay gap even further.

Women have been earning more than half of all awarded bachelor’s degrees since the 1981-1982 school year, and the gender gap has still persisted.

Norman Tripp, vice chair of the board, also suggested that perhaps women study fields that pay less.

“Are women going into education more” Tripp said, according to Politico. “Are those salaries naturally lower than in other areas I would just suspect that that might be part of the equation, but we can’t really tell.”

Regardless, men almost always earn more than women. When broken down by field of study, women outpaced men in only about a third of categories but, for the most part, not by a significant amount. For instance, nearly three times more women than men studied communications and journalism but men in the field still earned $1,100 more than women annually.

A Wells Fargo (No. 9 on the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) study from 2016 found that the gap is persisting even among the youngest working generation. The median salary for millennial men is $39,100 compared to $28,800 for millennial women and $33,800 for the general millennial population. Therefore, the study estimates that the wage gap is larger for millennial women than for the general population.

While evidence does not suggest that women are genetically less likely to be able to ask for a raise, some research shows that women are less likely to ask for a raise than men. But even when women are asking, they are not receiving.

A 2017 study from Paysa revealed that about 41 percent of women have never asked for a raise compared to just 29 percent of men. However, even when women do ask, they are less likely than men to receive one. Of women who asked for a raise, about 42 percent were rejected, versus only 33 percent of men being rejected.

A 2016 study from Warwick University also found that women are less likely to ask for a raise three-quarters of males asked, according to the data, versus 66 percent of females. But of those who did ask, 20 percent of men received, versus only 13 percent of women.

“We were expecting to find evidence for this old theory that women are less pushy than men,” said Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics and behavioral science at the university who co-authored the study, as reported by Fortune. “But the women and the men were equal.”

Therefore, according to Oswald, “there is discrimination against women.”

What Can Women Do

Cox Communications’ Chief Compliance Officer Robin H. Sangston previously shared with DiversityInc some tips on how women can work to close the pay gap they may be facing (Cox is No. 18 on the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list). Sangston suggests confidence and being collaborative, among other things.

For more information on women, the gender pay gap and to read Sangston’s full list of tips, visit For tips for how men and women can ask for a raise, check out our career advice webinar on How to Ask for a Raise, with Kia Painter-Holland, executive director, organizational effectiveness & employee experience at Cox Communications.

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