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Women in their 20s already see their salaries falling behind those of their male peers, according to data collected for the Financial Times’ ranking of Masters in Management degrees.
By the age of 27, men earn an average 22 per cent more than women with equivalent qualifications, the annual research shows.
Masters in Management programmes target those with little or no work experience, with most students enrolling after completing an undergraduate degree.
The courses are mainly in Europe, particularly France, where it is considered an elite path to follow.
This compares with MBA students, who usually have four or five years of work under their belts. While about a third of those on MBA programmes are women, almost 50 per cent of participants on MiM degrees are.
Despite the number of women on these early career business degrees, the programmes do not guarantee them a fast-track career, regardless of the sector they choose.
Although there is a higher proportion of men joining the banking and finance sector (28 per cent as opposed to 21 per cent for women), the salary differential remains at 22 per cent. This is the highest-paid sector, with respondents earning $65,000 on average three years after graduating with an MiM degree.
The main reason for the salary differential is that fewer women are promoted to senior management positions in their 20s than men.
At 27, almost a quarter of men holding a masters level business qualification had reached a senior management position, compared with 17 per cent of women.
For those respondents who were more than 30 years old, 19 per cent of women held senior management positions, compared with 41 per cent of men.
In Europe MiM degrees are the flagship programmes at most business schools, with graduates including President François Hollande and Henri de Castries, chief executive of Axa.
There were no respondents from the US, where the MBA dominates.
As a result, of the more than 6,000 managers who responded to the FT survey, 80 per cent live and work in Europe. French graduates accounted for 46 per cent of the total alumni pool, giving these students a disproportionately high representation in the sample. The salary differential between French men and women is slightly lower than most at 16 per cent.
The differential was pulled down by managers in eastern Europe, China and India, which accounted for the remaining 20 per cent of the respondents.