More than numbers: Gender gap report leads to discussion about campus climate

Gillian Dunlop

An internal analysis of pay disparity between male and female professors at Lafayette found that while women do make less than men, the gap is smaller than shown in some national studies and the reasons are not clear cut.

The report from the Faculty and Compensation Committee showed that the difference in salary is most profound at the associate professor rank, with men earning nearly six percent more on average than women.

With that, however, the report also accounted for male and female representation which demonstrated that while men are earning more, the average male associate professor has also been at that rank “nearly six years longer” than his female counterpart.

One female full professor said she was surprised at the results of the report and expected the pay gap would be greater.

“The report was better than I thought it would be,” she said. “I actually thought it was going to be worse. I figured the men were out-earning the women a lot more than they apparently are.”

In addition to researching salaries at Lafayette, the report also compared both salaries and gender representation at the college with 25 other schools with similar compositions to Lafayette.

According to the data, Lafayette has a “low percentage of females in the associate professor rank”—only 35 percent compared to the median of 48 percent at the comparison schools. And it drops even lower at the full professor rank, where only one in four full professors is a woman.

Compared with the 25 other schools in the report, Lafayette’s percentage of women at all professorial ranks is in the bottom quarter. Only one school, Claremont McKenna College, has a lower percentage of women for the associate professor rank.

Suggestions for improving these numbers of representation and salary were made at the end of the report, including placing more women in chaired positions as well as continuing to hire more women. Beyond that, however, the report stressed that although the difference in salary is not due to gender bias, the “findings must not be seen as reasons to avoid investigating climate topics.”

“The work that the governance committee is doing to look at the larger picture of campus climate is important,” committee chairman and professor of economics Christopher Ruebeck said. “It’s not just about representations and salaries.”

The professor, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed. She said she did not want to reveal her name, because of the sometimes uncomfortable climate between males and females at Lafayette.

“I think there is an atmosphere that women feel they don’t get the best teaching assignments and committee assignments that can maximize their potential,” she said.

The issue of unfair and biased treatment has been debated in higher education institutions is not new, nor is it specific to Lafayette.

“I think all professional women can remember times in which they were marginalized or passed over because of their gender,” government and law and international affairs professor Hannah Stewart-Gambino wrote in an email.

Additionally, the anonymous professor said, when women work in typically male- dominated departments, it can be even more difficult for them to be heard, forcing them to work even harder for the same opportunities.

“You always feel like you’re on edge,” she said. “You always feel like you’re watching your back and that you have to protect your position.”

In terms of salary, it can be argued that women tend to fall into gender roles and do not ask for more than they are being offered, Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio said.

“What I have noticed over the course of my own career, not specifically at Lafayette, is that it’s much harder for a woman to negotiate a salary or package,” Diorio said.

The anonymous professor agreed with Diorio.

“The fact that the report was asked for [in the first place] suggests to some people that there might be some bias,” she said.

But some female professors are afraid to publically speak out about these issues for fear of job safety, she added.

“They fear retaliation. They fear they’ll say something that’ll make their employer angry and they won’t get a raise,” the professor said. “It’s a small community.”