In Spite of Gender Pay Gap, Women Earn Greater Return on Investment in Higher Education

Activia training

  • Marginal earning return for women is higher than for men in almost all major subject of study, whilst net graduate premium for men is higher than for women
  • A degree in Medicine and Dentistry guarantees the best return on investment for higher education
  • The average entry-level salary in Banking & Finance sector for MBA graduates is £55,000

In spite of the stark gap in salaries paid to men versus women, the marginal earnings return for women is in fact higher than that for men. Nevertheless, the net graduate premium for men is higher than for women. This is according to data compiled from the UK Department for Business Innovation & Skills.

Research by the OECD has shown that the UK and USA have a considerable disparity between what women and men earn. In the UK men earn 17.5% more than women, and in the USA the pay gap is 17.9%. This finding may not be quite as transparent as once thought.

UK Net Graduate Premium UK Average ROI UK Gender Pay Gap
Men £190,160 23.7% 17.5%
Women £131,714 29.7%


Activia Training, a UK-based provider of corporate training, has conducted a new study to examine the differences in graduate earning returns, relative to degree subject. The data highlights the differences in ROI (Return On Investment) between men and women in the main subjects of study in higher education.

The study has good news for British women: in spite of the gender pay gap, women who enrol in higher education courses experience a much better return on investment than their male counterparts. This is the case for the majority of subjects in higher education.

Steve Warren from Activia Training says, “women in creative fields, such as design, journalism and linguistics, get a lot more out of their education than their male counterparts. Even in fields like medicine and business the data shows an unmistakably higher return on investment for females. This should give business leaders food for thought when tackling the issue of gender pay inequality.”

Gavan Colon from London Economics explains why the net graduate premium is higher for men than women: “women not in possession of higher education degrees are more likely to achieve lower earnings than men. This is the main reason why the earnings premium is higher than for men in percentage terms, but the financial or monetary benefit is lower in absolute terms.”

The research also shows that graduates from medicine and dentistry masters courses have higher returns than those studying design and creative arts, which have the lowest returns (sometimes even below the national average).

Furthermore, the average fee for an undergraduate or masters degree is compared with the average entry-level salary in the given sector.

The full interactive infographic study is published on the Activia Training website:

 About Activia Training

Formed in 1995, Activia Ltd is one of the leading companies in the corporate training sector, with a focus on providing affordable and high quality training to businesses throughout the UK.

For further information, please contact Marco Saccà at or 020 8344 2057.