Dear E. O. Wilson: Please retire or stick to ants »« #mencallmethings: r/atheism edition

Gender Salary Equity in Higher Education

I’m an active member of Women in Genome Sciences, a group in my department that works to make our field more accepting and welcoming to minorities. Today in belated honor of Equal Pay Day we hosted Dr. Laura Meyers who did research here at the University of Washington on the gender pay gap in higher education. I figured it was a topic my readers would be interested in, so here’s a summary of her talk:

Even though the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act were passed over 40 years ago, female faculty still make less. The average salary in 2009-2010 for men was $80,885, while for women it was $66,653. Dr. Meyers wanted to investigate potential causes of such a pay gap, like:

  • Segregation of women to lower paying jobs/fields (Education field is predominantly female and not well paid)
  • Nonmarket responsibilities as mothers/caregivers
  • Higher attrition rates in tenure-track positions
  • Devaluation of women’s work. Women are more likely to have  more teaching and service tasks (being on committees, running events and seminars, participating in outreach). However, research gets paid better than teaching or service
  • Lack of training and on-the-job education
  • Salary negotiation – are women not as good at it for whatever reason?
  • Organization behaviors and equity/salary/promotion policies

Her work takes three main categories of variables into account:

  1. Gender (Your gender and the percentage of your field that’s female)
  2. Human capital (Amount of training, rank, tenure status)
  3. Structural effects (Average faculty class loads, percent of faculty with funded research, average number of publications)

What is the effect of gender on things like base faculty salary, base faculty salary by discipline type, and base faculty salary by institution type? What is the effect of being in a female dominated or male dominated field? To answer these questions, she used the 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, the most comprehensive survey of faculty out there. It includes 11,257 Faculty affiliated with 26 disciplines and 860 institutions. The downside is that it’s a single snapshot of time and from 8 years ago, but it’s really the best data we have.

Her major findings were:

  • When looking at gender alone, there is a 14.3% gender salary gap. This is reduced to a 4.8% gap when you take the other variables into account. The variable that had the most effect on reducing the gap was rank and status. This is because there’s a high attrition rate for women in tenure track positions, especially in STEM fields, mostly due to policy and climate. So professors who are farther along in their careers and have tenure get paid better, but there aren’t as many women in these positions.
  • Controlling for other variables, the gender salary gap increases as you move toward institutions that offer higher levels of degrees. Associate’s programs are the most equal, followed by Baccalaureate, then Master’s, with Doctoral institutions being the worst with a 5.7% gap.
  • The gender gap is larger in research based positions than in teaching or service positions. Male faculty receive a larger benefit by focusing on research instead of teaching.
  • A higher proportion of female faculty in a discipline is associated with lower overall faculty salaries in that discipline
  • The gender salary gap is larger in institutions with less female faculty than in institutions with more female faculty. This results in male faculty benefitting financially by working in institutions with less female faculty, but females benefitting financially by working in institution with more female faculty

Dr. Meyers made the following suggestions on how we can combat this remaining pay gap:

  • Have flexible tenure/promotion policies and encourage/require faculty to take advantage of them. Often times alternative policies are in place, but there’s social pressure to not take them.
  • Recognize and reward alternative/varied ways that faculty contribute to a department institution. Women tend to do teaching and service more, and these are often seen as less important as research
  • Female faculty should focus on research that is aligned with mission/goals and tenure/promotion policies of their department. If your department is focused on research, limit service and teaching responsibilities. This is especially true when women are basically guilted onto being on every committee or every outreach event because they’re effectively the token minority. Feel safe in saying “No.”

A professor from my department asked if having publicly available salary data makes a difference. Are women more likely to ask for raises if they know what other people in their department are making? Dr. Meyers said she didn’t know for sure because no research has been done looking at that specifically, but she guessed having that knowledge would help. Someone floated the idea of making this gender gap data publicly available so people could see which institutions suck and with the hopes of the public shame changing things. Dr. Meyers responded that research institutions were the biggest offenders when it came to the pay gap, so you’d have to some how tie it into them receiving grant money for them to care.

Comments

  1. IslandBrewer says

    You know, ultimately, she didn’t appear to answer the question of “why”. Although pointing out the “where” is great, it’d still be informative to know whether female faculty don’t negotiate for higher salaries, or if department habitually offer women lower salaries.

  2. Ysanne says

    Very interesting. May I ask you to clarify a little detail?

    * A higher proportion of female faculty in a discipline is associated with lower overall faculty salaries in that discipline.
    * The gender salary gap is larger in institutions with less female faculty than in institutions with more female faculty.

    Does the first point mean “lower average salary for that discipline” or “lower salaries for male faculty of this discipline compared to male faculty in other disciplines”?
    I’m quite interested if it’s just the women’s salaries that change with the proportion of female faculty (and are particularly low when there aren’t many women around), or if there is a “many women — generally badly paid discipline” correlation.
    After all, there is a tendency for women to go into a-priori badly paid fields, and conversely for fields to become less well paid once the proportion of women entering it rises. (E.g. teachers, pharmacists, or even maths professors in Italy.) I’m wondering if this is another example.

  3. redleg says

    If you want to know where your salary stands on the bell curve, you can check for yourself:
    http://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm
    The BLS database is, of course, an imperfect measure but it is consistently imperfect.

    I found that my whole section of water and wastewater engineers is paid way below median for our state. Our section manager is a woman. The rest of us in the section are men, as are the rest of the section managers.

  4. says

    “Salary negotiation – are women not as good at it for whatever reason?”

    Note that this problem can exist only if salary is negotiable. If there are fixed wages set by a union or whatever, then there is not a problem; despite some claims, no such regulations specify lower female wages.

    This is the main reason. Most female academics are married to male academics. With each salary being above the national average (of all people, not people with their qualifications), there is little pressure to negotiate a higher salary or work somewhere where pay is better but other things aren’t. Consider that with good qualifications more money could be made outside of academia, so people who stay aren’t in it for the money anyway. Most male academics, on the other hand, are not married to female academics, and their wives probably earn much less than they do. Thus, having to feed many mouths, they have to negotiate harder, and the boss knows it’s not a bluff when they say they will go elsewhere if their demands are not met. How often does the top male surgeon marry a female nurse? How often vice versa?

    One solution to this problem is for women to start “dating down”. The fact that this expression exists (usually as something to avoid) shows that women are aware of the “problem”. All those macho dudes will be happy to earn less and perhaps work somewhere more comfortable in return if they can count on their wife earning more. The fact that a man in such a situation is criticized for living off his wife while a woman in the corresponding position is seen as a victim is also part of the problem.

    Meanwhile, women porn actors continue to earn several times what their male, errm, counterparts do.

  5. Andy Groves says

    Apologies if this is old information (and slightly off topic), but I wanted to pass on a link to the report that was put together by Nancy Hopkins and her colleagues at MIT in the late 1990s concerning the status of women faculty there:

    http://web.mit.edu/fnl/women/women.html

    The bad news was that the report went much further than just examining pay inequality and found many more cases on gender inequality.

    The good news was that MIT leadership rallied behind the report and apparently made significant changes. I do not know what things like there now.

    I was a former postdoc at Caltech, and they constituted a similar committee in the light of the MIT experience. My former mentor, Marianne Bronner, said that she and her women colleagues were initially skeptical that anything much would come to light – but they were again shocked at the wide-ranging disparities that their investigation revealed. I heard that the Caltech leadership supported the report but I don’t know what was implemented to change the situation.

  6. Michael Hoffman says

    Most female academics are married to male academics.

    What is the evidence for this?

  7. gedwarren says

    The gender salary gap is larger in institutions with less female faculty than in institutions with more female faculty.

    What more evidence is needed that it’s just not cricket?

  8. kyoungers says

    “Have flexible tenure/promotion policies and encourage/require faculty to take advantage of them.”

    I don’t think this should be offered as a solution to the wage gap problem. Saying “we have flexible policies now so that women can be paid as much as men!” only encourages people to think that women need flexible policies and men don’t. In other words, it encourages sexism.

    I do think it should be put in place just as a matter of work/life balance.

  9. ischemgeek says

    Most male academics, on the other hand, are not married to female academics…

    Citation needed.

  10. Ruu says

    Recognize and reward alternative/varied ways that faculty contribute to a department institution. Women tend to do teaching and service more, and these are often seen as less important as research

    Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?

    Might there be a reason that research pays better than teaching (i.e. it brings in more money/prestige/whatever the institution values, or there are less people capable or willing to perform research than teaching)?

    If there is a good reason why research pays better, surely then the solution is to encourage women to pursue research more than teaching, or some variation on that theme, not to try and get teaching to pay the same as research.

    Another approach would be to find ways to make teaching bring in more benefit to institutions than it currently does.

    If teaching doesn’t bring in the same revenue/non-monetary benefits as research then its unlikely it will ever pay as well.

    If you assume totally arbitrary reasons for pay differences for different jobs then it makes sense to try and achieve equality by reducing pay difference for different jobs. However with the exception of certain rent-seeking manipulations, there is almost always a good reason one role pays more than another, since employers do not want to pay more than they have to for good staff.

Leave a Reply