(Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily via AP)

A Florida college official said Tuesday that women make less money than men because genetically they might lack the skills to negotiate for better pay.

Edward Morton of the State University System of Florida made the comments during a board meeting in which members talked about closing the wage gap between male and female graduates of the state’s public university system. Morton, chair of the board’s Strategic Planning Committee and a financial adviser from Naples, Fla., said, according to Politico:

Something that we’re doing in Naples some of our high school students, we’re actually talking about incorporating negotiating and negotiating skill into curriculum so that the women are given — maybe some of it is genetic, I don’t know, I’m not smart enough to know the difference — but I do know that negotiating skills can be something that can be honed, and they can improve. Perhaps we can address than in all of our various curriculums through the introduction of negotiating skill, and maybe that would have a bearing on these things.

Morton apologized for his comment in an email sent to fellow board members shortly after the meeting.

“I chose my words poorly. My belief is that women and men should be valued equally in the workplace,” he said, adding that the university’s goal is to teach all students how to better negotiate their salaries.

Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Morton to the board, was among those who quickly criticized Morton for his comments. Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott, said in a statement that as a father of two daughters, the governor “absolutely does not agree” with Morton’s comments.

Gwen Graham, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, tweeted Tuesday night: “When I sat at the negotiation table, nothing about my gender or genetics held me back. THIS is why we need more women in state government.”

Morton did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Politico reported that during the meeting board members were reviewing a report on gender wage gaps among students who graduated from the university system in 2015. The report, which looked at what students did after graduation and how much they’re earning, found that female graduates from various fields have an annual median salary of $37,000, which is $5,500 less than the median salary of male graduates. African American graduates make even less, with an annual median wage of $35,600.

Female graduates make less than men even though they account for nearly 60 percent of the graduating class, according to the report. Blacks, Hispanics and whites make up 12 percent, 25 percent and 52 percent of the graduating class, respectively.

During the meeting, Morton said that the wage gap will in some way be “self-correcting” because the university system has more female graduates than men, according to Politico.

The report also found significant discrepancies in pay among men and women who graduated with the same degrees. The median salaries of women with degrees in biological sciences, business and marketing, communication and journalism, security and protective services, social sciences, and visual and performing arts are from $1,200 to $4,400 lower than those of men with similar credentials. The gap among agriculture, liberal arts and physical sciences graduates is even greater — from $6,400 to $9,400.

Yet the report also found that women with degrees in education, engineering, health professions and psychology make from $500 to $3,100 more than their male counterparts annually.

A history of the long fight for gender wage equality. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Florida is among more than a dozen states with equal pay laws that have loopholes that allow employers to continue to pay women less, according to the American Association of University Women. Two states, Alabama and Mississippi, have no equal pay laws. And only a handful — California, Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maryland — have strong equal pay laws.

Nationally, women’s annual earnings are about 80 percent of what men make, according to a recent report by the association.

The report attributes the wage gap partly to differences in career choices and to the fact that parenting more often puts women’s professional lives at a disadvantage than it does men’s. Twenty-three percent of mothers left the workforce 10 years after graduation, while 17 percent worked part-time, according to the association. Those numbers among fathers were 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

Despite factors such as life choices and parenting, women face pay gaps “at every education level and in nearly every line of work,” the report said.

READ MORE:

In the federal government, how likely is it that a woman will make more than a man?

The poor ‘just don’t want health care’: Republican congressman faces backlash over comments

‘Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,’ GOP lawmaker says. He got booed.