Sean Lyons of the University of Guelph, Linda Schweitzer of Carleton University and Ed Ng of Dalhousie University polled more than 23,000 Canadian university students about salary and promotion expectations as well as career priorities.
The study, published in the journal Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, finds women predict their starting salaries at 14 percent less than what the men forecast, with women anticipating their earnings to be 18 percent less than men after five years on the job.
"This study shows that women aren't blissfully ignorant and know the gender gap exists," Lyons says in a statement. "Overall, we found the male students' expectations are way too high. These results may indicate that women are just more realistic about their salary expectations."
However, the researchers say they can only speculate why the gender gap still exists. Women may expect to trade off higher salaries for preferences in lifestyle, may have inaccurate salary information from mothers and older women, or may not be as aggressive as men when it comes to negotiating salaries or pay raises because they don't expect to earn as much, the researchers say.
"Our study shows women don't feel inferior to men and view themselves as every bit as capable as their male counterparts," the researchers add.