Report finds Irish male graduates earn €80,000 more in their lifetime than female graduates

The report also highlights a gender imbalance in a number of fields of study

An Irish male graduate will earn, on average, €80,000 more in this lifetime than a female graduate, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report has found.

The report, which contains data on the state of education in countries around the world, also highlights a gender imbalance in a number of fields of study.

A gender imbalance is notable in aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 81% of  information and communication technologies (ICT) third level entrants, as well as those starting courses in engineering, manufacturing and construction, are male.

The above comprises some, but not all, of what constitutes STEM subjects; natural sciences, mathematics and statistics are also categorised as STEM subjects. The report showed that in 2015, 30% of third level entrants to STEM were women, which is on par with the OECD average.


Business, administration and law courses also see a gender imbalance, though to a lesser degree. In Ireland these courses, on average, are comprised of 53% men at third level.

According to the report, which compiles findings on the 35 OECD member countries and 11 partner countries, women make up a majority of entrants in all fields of study in Irish third level institutions, with some exceptions.

The areas in which women are in sizeable majority are health and welfare, which see women comprise a 79% share of graduates, and education, where 70% of graduates are female. Notably, Ireland produces more health and welfare graduates than any other OECD country, producing 5% above the OECD average.

The OECD gender pay gap findings support existing Irish data. A report published by PwC in February found that Ireland had a 14.8% difference in median pay between men and women, while Eurostat, which defines the gender gap as the difference between male and female average hourly earnings as a percentage of male earnings, placed the gender gap at 14.4% in 2012 .

Speaking to Trinity News, Professor Eileen Drew, Director of the Trinity Centre for Gender Equality and Leadership (TCGEL), expressed her lack of surprise at the OECD findings. She stated that the gender pay gap is evident amongst all graduates within 6 months of graduation, for two main reasons.

The first reason is the “differential skill entry, whereby female graduates do not seek jobs at a level commensurate with their qualifications, as more men do”, while the second is that “it is acknowledged that women feel less comfortable about pay bargaining, not just at entry but thereafter in their careers”. A lower level entry and a lower pay at the recruitment stage “sow the seeds of cumulative disadvantage” that enlarges as graduate careers advance.

In addition, the gender pay gap is often attributed to the fact that sectors which see a higher proportion of women are often those with lower salaries, as well as women’s increased likelihood to work part-time, among other factors. The latter is often due to childcare constraints. According to the National Women’s Council of Ireland, almost 70% of part-time workers are female.

Regarding the relative lack of women in some STEM courses as highlighted by the OECD figures, Prof. Drew acknowledged that while women are well below “critical mass” in some fields of study, such as ICT and engineering, women are also “already well represented in some sciences, as they are in medicine and other professions”. She stated that this has taken “time and encouragement for young female school-leavers to feel that they have a place in this educational environment”.  

Aisling Grace

Aisling Grace was the Editor-in-Chief of the 66th Volume of Trinity News. She was also formerly Online Editor and Deputy News Editor.