Young women expect higher wages

Survey says teenage girls no longer expect lower wages than their male counterparts do.

Published January 24, 2006 10:07PM (EST)

Here's some cheering news: Teenage girls' salary expectations have been increasing in recent years, and now they're about equal to boys' expectations.

Business-education organization Junior Achievement Worldwide polled a bunch of high school students to measure the shrinking anticipated-wage gap. For the last three years, pollsters have asked boys and girls how much they'd expect to make in a bunch of different professions, like business, education, entertainment, medicine and technology. Until this year, girls' earning expectations have been lower than boys', but the 2006 survey found that male and female participants had pretty comparable expectations. In fact, in certain fields, more girls than boys expected six-figure salaries. About 44 percent of girls and 39 percent of boys expected to make $250,000 or more annually if they went into business, and about 68 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys expected to make that amount if they became doctors.

Lest we alarm any "war on boys" worriers, though, a JA Worldwide press release soothes: "Male students still held higher salary expectations for careers in entertainment (42.1 percent versus 38.5 percent), the computer field (38.1 percent versus 25 percent), and law (37.5 percent versus 34.8 percent)."

Still, a few caveats: JA Worldwide clarifies that the survey participants weren't randomly selected and may not represent a scientific cross section of American students, so these results dont necessarily speak for all teens. And since the companys mission is getting young people pumped up about business and entrepreneurship, their poll participants might be unusually likely to expect high wages and prefer professions that promise big paychecks.

In fact, there seem to be a surprisingly high number of Alex and Alexandra P. Keatons in JA Worldwides acquaintance: The poll found that the most popular job choice among teens is "businessperson."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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