There's still a pay disparity between men and women. But millennials are closing the gap

generational wage gap
Salaries of young women are closing in on the paychecks of their male counterparts.

The good news is that the gender wage gap is shrinking among America's youngest workers.

But don't start planning the farewell to wage disparity party just yet. The gap still widens as responsibility levels increase, according to a new study from PayScale and Millennial Branding.

"The higher up the career ladder women go to reach manager and executive levels, the more wage gap grows," said Lydia Frank from PayScale.

After accounting for factors like job title, experience, industry and tenure, the difference in overall median pay between men and women millennial workers is 2.2% ($51,000 vs. $49,000). This age group, defined in the study as those born 1982-2002, are more likely to hold entry-level positions, where the gap is smaller.

Among baby boomer workers, the overall gap is 2.7%, and it's the widest among Generation X colleagues at 3.6%.

Behind the 78 cent wage gap

But the smaller disparity is a good sign for young workers, since early starting salaries set the earnings pace for an entire career. "If you don't negotiate in that first job, it compounds over time," said millennial workplace expert Lindsey Pollak. "You won't necessarily be able to make up for it later."

While a narrowing pay gap is good news at any level, it's not necessarily due to women demanding higher pay. "Employers are more aware and are trying to get ahead of any potential gender bias in terms of pay," said Frank.

At the executive level, the wage gap increases to 6.2% among boomers, 7.4% for Gen Xers and 4.9% for millennials.

The employment situation has been tough for millennials, with many of them entering the workforce in the midst of the Great Recession that wiped out nearly nine million jobs. While the economy has since recovered the jobs, competition remains tight and underemployment remains a problem—especially among the highly educated.

"College graduates saw the labor market conditions and decided to stay in school rather than try to enter it," explained Frank.

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When it comes to corporate loyalty, age also comes into play.

Forty-five percent of millennials think the ideal length to stay with an employer before finding a new job is two to three years, and 26% said a year or less is acceptable.

Meanwhile, 41% of baby boomers said five years or more was an acceptable job tenure, while only 13% of millennials thought they should stay at a job for that long before finding a new gig.

"I've seen a lot of boomerang careers among younger workers," said Pollak. "They think the grass is always greener, but that's not always the case."

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