Thursday, April 27, 2000

Some colleges making progress on pay issue

Gender gap narrows as women move up

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Colleges and universities nationwide have been wrestling for years over a gender gap in faculty pay.

        Many have formed commissions, set aside special funds and conduct annual progress reports on hiring female faculty.

        Nationally, the proportion of women in tenured faculty jobs has grown from about 18 percent in 1988 to about 26 percent in 1998, according to the American Association of University Professors. Meanwhile, the proportion of women among non-tenured faculty has grown from 34 percent to 45 percent.

        As women move up the ranks, pay gaps have been shrinking. The debate is whether the progress has been fast enough.

        At Miami University, 48 percent of assistant professors in 1988 were women, as were 18 percent of tenured full-time professors. By 1999, women accounted for 52 percent of assistant professors and 30 percent of ten ured professors.

        In the past 15 years, Miami has made at least a half-dozen pay scale adjustments to address gender gap concerns, said Joseph Urell, associate vice president of academic affairs.

        “Overall, the situation is improving,” Dr. Urell said. “We still have fewer women professors than men but the gap is closing. When you look at comparable positions, women are paid a comparable amount to men.”

        Even so, Miami University has been no better than colleges in general at dealing with pay gaps that occur between academic fields, a trend that historically works against women, said Sally Lloyd, director of women's studies at Miami.

        “How equitable is it to pay an English professor $20,000 less than an accounting professor?” Dr. Lloyd said.

        Colleges often say such salary differences between departments are driven by market forces. But once on campus, the work that professors do is mostly the same: teaching classes, doing research, attending meetings and so on, Dr. Lloyd said.

        “Isn't it interesting that the fields that people say we must pay more to attract faculty are the same fields that have very few women to begin with?” Dr. Lloyd said.

        At the College of Mount St. Joseph, which was a women's college until 1986, about 66 percent of the faculty are female and pay differences based on gender haven't been much of an issue, said spokeswoman Linda Liebau.

        However, the college compares its pay scales to like-sized, church-related campuses nationwide. Last year, 40 faculty members including men and women got raises to bring them up to national averages.

        Experts say several factors explain why female faculty have historically earned less than male faculty. Among them:

        „Over the years, larger numbers of men reached and still dominate the highest-seniority, highest-paying positions.

        „By choice or not, women faculty have concentrated in less lucrative academic fields, such as education or social sciences compared to hard sciences such as business or engineering.

        „Women faculty also have been more likely to leave their jobs or interrupt their careers to raise children.


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