U administration to review pay gap

Faculty salaries data from 2012 will be analyzed later this semester.

by Emma Nelson

The University of Minnesota administration plans to analyze 2012 salary data for gender disparities this fall, which may lead to new review methods in the spring.

The analysis, to be conducted by the University’s Office of Institutional Research, follows a June 2011 report that showed a 2.2 percent pay gap between male and female faculty members.

It’ll allow University administrators to look for institutional problems that contribute to the gender pay gap and compare recent numbers to the 2007 data used in the 2011 report.

“This is a key step and a relatively easy one,” said Arlene Carney, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs.

Information from individual colleges about the salaries of new and retained faculty will also be compiled for the first time — a process that will likely take place annually, she said.

In the future, Carney said, the process may be extended to examine the salaries of faculty of color.

Karen Hanson, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, formed a four-member steering committee at the end of spring semester to address the gender disparity. During the summer, the group examined existing policies and sought input from other University members.

Recommendations from the report — which was sparked by a 2010 study sponsored by the office of the senior vice president and provost and the Office of Human Resources — were used alongside a proposal from the University’s Women’s Faculty Cabinet, which pushed for the 2010 study.

“After we had laid out ‘Here’s what we’d like to see happen,’ we needed to turn it over to the people who would be running it,” said Erin Kelly, associate professor of sociology and former chair of the Women’s Faculty Cabinet.

The committee — which includes Hanson, Carney, Vice President for Human Resources Kathryn Brown and Kris Lockhart, associate vice president for equity and diversity — presented a draft proposal to the deans of the Twin Cities campus at a closed Sept. 10 meeting.


Options going forward

There are a number of different ways for universities to respond to the pay gap issue, Kelly said.

Some give a blanket salary increase to all female faculty members, while others look at how salaries are determined at the departmental level.

Individual merit is a major factor in deciding faculty members’ salaries but is determined differently in each department, Carney said.

Some departments have points systems, she said, while in others, the department head determines merit using a specific set of criteria.

The Women’s Faculty Cabinet proposed a salary review process more similar to the University’s faculty hiring process, Kelly said.

Departmental reviews would involve an outside faculty member from the same college or school, and the process would also be checked at the college level.

But because of the differences between departments and colleges, Carney said, the review process will likely need to work differently.

“When you have colleges that do things so differently, you want to find out, ‘What should we ask everybody to do, and how do we do things respecting the culture of the individual college?’” She said.


A widespread issue

Many universities conduct pay gap review processes on a regular basis.

Review cycles are different at each institution. Some wait up to five years between reviews, while others — like the University of California-Irvine — repeat the process annually.

The first preliminary study was conducted there in 1991-92. The salaries of white male faculty serve as a baseline.

In recent years, the salaries of women faculty have dropped substantially at Irvine. In 2011, the salaries of women faculty fell to nearly $6,000 below those of their white male counterparts.

But even in cases when a salary disparity isn’t apparent, female faculty may still feel they are at a disadvantage.

An April 2012 study on women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at Ohio State University examined both resource distribution and job satisfaction.

While the study didn’t find a significant disparity in the compensation of women in STEM fields, it did find that they were more likely to “feel excluded from power networks, to have fewer opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary research and to feel under-appreciated by their peers.”

Because of this, women were far more likely to want to leave the university.


Next steps

The University of Minnesota’s review process, Carney said, will address the existing issue while also taking preventative measures.

“What we hope, of course, is if we make the right corrections in hiring and retentions and processes in each college, that ultimately there won’t need to be adjustments,” she said.

The committee will first focus on full professors when the 2012 data is released, Carney said, because the 2010 study showed that group had the largest pay gap of all faculty members.

The committee plans to have the new salary data by at least Jan. 1, but Carney said she expects it to look much like the 2007 data.

“I think it would be surprising if the outcome were wildly different,” she said.