Data shows gender gap in faculty earnings

A review process could take place this summer.

by Jill Jensen

A study of University of Minnesota salaries showed unexplained gaps between male and female faculty members, prompting female faculty members to demand a salary review.

According to a study done by the Women’s Faculty Cabinet in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Research and faculty statistical experts, University of Minnesota full female professors made about $9,000 less than their male counterparts in 2007.

A review of female faculty members’ salaries is likely to happen this summer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time earn about 77 cents for every $1 their male counterparts make. This has prompted national discussion on equal pay rights and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed by President Barack Obama when he assumed office.

At a White House forum on women and the economy April 6, Obama said that the bill “makes it easier for women to demand fairness — equal pay for equal work.”

This summer, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson hopes to move forward in a process to review female faculty members’ salaries in an effort to increase transparency in the salary determination process and resolve any inequalities.

“[We want to] set up a policy that every unit can follow and will embrace to make sure that we rectify any past precedents and don’t generate problems in the future,” Hanson said.

She estimated that it will take two years to complete the first review. Committees of faculty from within the unit and those outside will review salaries. There will also be an additional review on the collegiate level.

“It provides a good opportunity for units to think about their merit review processes and become more explicit about them.”

The analysis by the Women’s Faculty Cabinet was adjusted for 16 variables like discipline and experience to account for those differences but still found that unexplained gaps existed in salary between men and women, according to the report.

Following the release of the study in May 2010, former Provost Tom Sullivan and the Office of Human Resources requested additional analysis by professional consultant Murray Clayton, a professor of statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His study found that male faculty members make an average of 2.2 percent more than their female counterparts. Because this is not evenly distributed across colleges or ranks, however, Clayton didn’t recommend an “across-the-board” adjustment for all female faculty members.

Clayton’s recommendations included developing a system to adjust female faculty salaries as warranted and working to identify the causes of salary inequities. He pointed out that sometimes a gap is justifiable based on merit.

Since May 2010, the Women’s Faculty Cabinet has been speaking to various Faculty Senate committees and Hanson about correcting the issue.

While they provided recommendations based on the studies and Clayton’s recommendations, it “matters less exactly how it happens,” than that something is done, said Erin Kelly, associate sociology professor and chair of the Women’s Faculty Cabinet.

She said she wants to see a broad review of all women’s salaries because female faculty members are either unaware of a disparity or don’t want to risk asking for a review.

“It’s clear that something needs to be done,” Kelly said.

She said some of the inequality in pay could be due to subtle bias in how faculty members are evaluated.

In the sociology department, an elected committee of faculty members reviews the merits of each faculty member and provides recommendations to the chair in order to determine a salary, Kelly said. In other departments, it’s less transparent.

While there are other issues some female faculty members are dealing with, like a hostile work environment, Kelly said this is something concrete they can improve on.

She said she hopes to see implementation of a review this summer.

“We’re poised to really move forward in the next year.”