More Fodder in the Equal Pay and Opt-Out Wars

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Two reports out this week are sure to fire up the debate over the gender pay gap and whether women still face real discrimination in the workforce or are making personal choices that lower their pay when compared with that of men.

The American Association of University Women's report shows the pay gap is real and not even a degree from a top university can close it. The study was released to coincide with this year's Equal Pay Day, which marks the number of extra days a woman must work in addition to the prior year to match what a man earned in one year. The study shows female college graduates earn 80 cents for each dollar earned by male classmates one year after graduation. Ten years later, the comparative figure dwindles to 69 cents.

This despite the fact that women graduate from college at higher rates than men–and maintain higher grade point averages, even in fields such as math and science. One reason could be found in a new Labor Department study released earlier this year showing more married women–with and without college degrees–are opting out of the workforce when their children are young. The Labor Department study shows: "The proportion of mothers in the labor force had been trending down since 2000, when it was 72.3 percent.

The participation rate for married mothers, at 68.2 percent in 2005, was little changed over the year. It had been trending down since 1997, when it was 70.7 percent."