The confidence gap predicts the gender pay gap among STEM graduates

Is there a gender pay gap among graduates in some science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields? Women and men have near-identical human capital at college exit, but cultural beliefs about men as more fit for STEM professions than women may lead to self-beliefs that affect pay. We hypothesized that women and men would be paid differently upon college exit, and that gender gaps in self-beliefs about one’s abilities, or self-efficacy, would correspond to this difference. Using data from a three-wave longitudinal study of graduates of engineering programs from 2015–2017, we find a confidence gap that aligns with a gender pay gap. Overall, these findings point to the role that cultural beliefs play in creating gender disparities among STEM degree-holders.