12 May 2008
According to the 2004 US Census, women in the US earned on average 76.5¢ for every dollar that men earned. (Wikipedia) This statistic, however, is misleading as it fails to take into account issues such as choice in career (CEO pays more than cashier), education, delay of career due to childcare, or even full/part time employment status (correct me if I'm wrong on this last one). While the statistic of 76.5¢ on the dollar is quite depressing, it would be much more useful to compare like jobs and like education levels.
Well, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a series of statistics that help us to examine exactly this! If you look at the overall situation, then it's worse than in non-science fields: Women in the sciences earn $49k on average, while men earn $70k, putting women at 70¢ on the dollar ("Median annual salary of scientists and engineers employed full time, by highest degree, broad occupation, age group, and sex: 2003", Table H-16). But once you start to control things better, the situation isn't quite as dire. For people with a Master's degree such as myself, women earn 80¢ on the man's dollar ("Primary education/employment status and median salary of 2001 and 2002 S&E master's degree recipients, by field, sex, race/ethnicity, and disability status: 2003", Table H-14).
It varies by field and age as well. Women in Biological/Life sciences can expect 88¢, while women in Math average out at 71¢ (lower than the national average!). My field, physical science, is nearly as bad at 73¢ - however young women (under age 29) can expect to make $1.14 to every dollar that a man makes! How's that for breaking the curve! Unless she's got a doctorate too, then it's back down to 72¢.