Mind the gap: Representation and salary disparities between male and female professors

Emily Cohen

Prompted by faculty concerns of potentially unequal wages between men and women employees, Professor of Economics and chair of the Faculty Compensation Committee Chris Ruebeck put together a report for Lafayette faculty dealing with two main issues of the gender wage gap: representation and salary.

According to data published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, male full professors at Lafayette earn on average $7,776 more than their female counterparts for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The gender disparities in the salaries of associate professors and assistant professors are less than the gap for full-time professors. Male associate professors earn $6,336 more than women and male assistant professors earn $531 more than their female counterparts, according to the Chronicle.

According to Ruebeck, one reason for these numbers has to do with varying representation at the full professor, associate professor and assistant professor levels.

“There are a lot more male full professors than female full professors,” Ruebeck said. “And that’s less true, but still true at the associate professor rank. We’re about 50/50 at the assistant professor rank.”

According to Ruebeck, over the last few years, raises have been two percent in excess of inflation. Therefore, if a man has been an associate professor or full professor for two more years than a woman, he should have a four percent higher salary.

Like Ruebeck, President Alison Byerly said that issues with pay and gender could be systemic.

“Even if you had as many women as men, if the women were proportionally more junior, their salaries might be lower simply because they may have come into the pipeline a little bit later,” Byerly said.

According to Byerly, the problem at Lafayette might not be that there is a gender pay gap due to discrimination against women, but that women are either not hired as often as men or they are not promoted as quickly.

“My sense from reading the Faculty Compensation Committee’s report is that there doesn’t seem to be evidence of what you would call direct-gender bias,” Byerly said. “But we may still see the effects of men moving more quickly through the promotional ladder.”

According to Ruebeck, the Faculty Compensation Committee took this issue into account by controlling for seniority during their report.

“Within full professors, if we do a regression that includes a male-female variable and the years of time at full professor, once we control for years of rank, there’s actually very little difference between the averages,” Ruebeck said.

According to Byerly, one other way representation plays into the gender pay gap for men and women is that women who are full professors serve on committees more often, because there are fewer of them.

Professors are required to do committee service work in order to qualify for promotion. The committees, however, want to be representational of both men and women, and since there are more male than female professors, women tend to serve on the committees longer, Byerly said.

By having to serve so much time on committees, women are unable to grow professionally as quickly as men, and this hinders their career growth, said Professor of Economics and Women and Gender Studies Susan Averett.

“Women end up doing, in general, more service work,” Averett said. “There’s a lot of concern that women do more service work and that tends to be valued less, and sometimes it feels like you’re doing more than your male colleagues who are doing the same job.”

According to Averett, another reason why female professors may appear to be making less money than their male counterparts is because women typically are professors of the humanities, while men are typically professors in the STEM fields. STEM professors tend to make more than humanities professors, she said.

Averett added that at private colleges, it can be frustrating to women that salaries are not public information, because it makes it difficult to determine what a fair salary would be. Reports like the one Ruebeck conducted could help combat that issue, she added.

“I think most institutions do try and look very carefully at what the data is telling them about equity for individuals as well as for entire cohorts, but I think it is an issue across higher-ed…as it is across many fields,” Byerly said.