Pay discrepancies between male and female MSU faculty can be explained, but not excused, and the university is working to correct the problem, officials said.
Female faculty make between 92 and 96 percent of what males make, on average, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. That’s one of the best rates in the Big Ten, but there’s still work to be done, officials said. The worst is the University of Michigan, with women making 84 percent of what men do at the full professor rank .
Women at MSU make more as a percentage of what their male counterparts do in comparison to all other Big Ten schools for full professors, and most others, for lower ranks.
There also are many more male than female faculty members overall, but especialzly among full professors — about three and a half times as many men hold that position compared to women. The difference decreases with each lower rank, down to associate professors, assistant professors and instructors. The trend follows with full Big Ten numbers.
Explanations for these differences range from historical perspectives to career field choices to a lack of negotiating skills by women, according to officials.
The main things being done to combat pay differences include making the process to raise salaries less ambiguous and helping new hires negotiate for better wages, officials said.
Women have made gains in salary since the movement began in the 1960s and 1970s, but in academia, some differences still exist.
Acting Provost June Youatt, said since she began her career, women are more willing to negotiate for competitive salaries, which is important because yearly merit increases are based on percentages.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that the offers are equitable across groups — it’s not just on the person who may or may not be good at negotiating,” she said.
But, many of those women who started out with low salaries 30 or 40 years ago still are working on salaries that are calculated based on starting pay, and they’ll always be low compared to their male peers, Youatt said. Many men who began their careers around the same time still are at the university and making large salaries. There also are more men than women who entered academia in that time period, which exacerbates the difference.
“If you look at our older professors, it’s a lot of older men,” Youatt said. “If you look at the hires from last year, there is balance between male and female.”
She added the real imbalance comes from faculty who are 60 to 70 years old.
The lack of women in” the full professor rank”:http://www.hr.msu.edu/promotion/facacadstaff/FacGuideTenure.htm, with three and a half times more men, is a historical problem, she said. In 15 to 20 years, when older professors retire, there shouldn’t be such big differences.
“That’s a historical explanation. It explains where we are, it doesn’t excuse where we are,” Youatt said.
Fields that don’t pay (much)
Some fields pay less — as dictated by the overall market — and women tend to work in those fields in higher rates than men.
The Broad College of Business tends to have higher salaries overall and more men, while arts and humanities disciplines tend to have a more proportionate representation of women and lower pay rates, said Terry Curry, associate provost and associate vice president for academic human resources.
In the Department of Art, Art History and Design, there are more women, but they still are underrepresented in the full professor rank and make about 14 percent less than men on average.
“We certainly wish that there would be no differences as a result of any factors besides performance and accomplishments of faculty members,” Curry said.
If the pay differences are mostly because of the fields that women go into, and women are entering technical fields at higher and higher rates, the difference in pay might go away, said Scott Imberman, associate professor of economics.
Pay differs by field because the university has to pay relative to the overall market — engineering professors make more than English professors because their pay opportunities outside of academia are higher, Imberman said.
But one MSU professor said the real question is, “Why don’t those fields pay as much?
“There is a joke — it’s not really funny — people say if you want to decrease the wages of an occupation, make it a female-dominated occupation,” said Michelle Kaminski, an associate professor for the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations and a core faculty member for the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context. “For example, in Russia, there are far more female doctors than male doctors and they’re far lower paid than they are (elsewhere).”
Striving for equity
University officials said efforts to make the merit pay increase system more equitable are ongoing.
“There’s no acceptable explanation for differences in pay,” Youatt said. “Being vigilant about these decisions is important. No two people will be exactly the same — we don’t want two people that are the same. We’re not going for equality, we’re going for equity.”
Curry said the university does an annual salary analysis of all the faculty, comparing current salaries to projected salaries based on department, rank and time spent at MSU. For people who don’t meet the projected salary, the college provides a plan to rectify the situation.
Another point of concern is making sure departments across campus are consistent and transparent in personnel decisions. Curry said that’s being combated by additional structure and programs to make sure policies are followed.
The university also is making sure mentoring programs are available to new faculty to help them do things like negotiate with their department chair for lab time and put together their annual activity report — which is a big part of the yearly evaluation and determines salary increases, Curry said.
Kaminski said, in her experience, some steps are being taken to fix the problem “but there is still plenty of room for politics (in salary increases).”
Where to go from here
MSU’s salary discrepancy is small compared to the overall market and other Big Ten institutions, but officials agree there’s more to be done.
Women in the U.S. in general make about 80 percent of what men do.
One reason academia tends to have a small pay gap could be because all faculty have about the same level of education, which is not true in the general market.
Youatt said there’s no reason the gap can’t be closed.