There are all kinds of reasons why one professor on a campus might earn more than another -- seniority, rank, market differences for disciplines, to name but a few. What about sexism?
In an effort to draw attention to the significant gender gaps in many categories of faculty employment, the American Association of University Professors is today releasing a report with "gender equity indicators"  for higher education as a whole and for individual campuses.
The report finds significant gaps in salaries and in the percentages of faculty members in the senior ranks of universities, especially at doctoral universities. Gender parity appears to be much more likely at community colleges and other teaching-oriented institutions, and in part-time positions across sectors. Of course those are areas that tend to pay much less. The data also suggest that even at doctoral institutions, departments are more likely to have parity at the junior faculty levels.
"I think one of the questions that this raises is whether we are going to end up in a two-tiered profession," a well paid tier dominated by men at research universities and a more modestly compensated and diverse tier elsewhere, said Ann Higginbotham, a professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University and chair of the AAUP's Committee on Women in the Academic Profession.
Some of the numbers in the report are quite striking, both as national averages and by comparing individual institutions. For example, there are nine doctoral institutions where the average salary for a female assistant professor is less than 85 percent of that of the average male assistant professor, and there are nine doctoral universities where women do not make up even 10 percent of full professors. There are also doctoral institutions that fare well in both of those measures (see lists at end of article).
But officials at some institutions that don't look particularly good -- and some experts on salary patterns -- warn that there are many possible explanations for the disparities. In particular, they say that disciplinary salary differentials, not gender, may be a key factor in explaining gaps.
AAUP officials acknowledge that there are many possible explanations. But they say that, at the very least, the gaps call out for investigation. "I think the significant thing is that we are releasing the data for individual schools around the country, so people at their own schools can compare how their school is doing compared to others," said Martha S. West, a professor of law at the University of California at Davis. "Hopefully we'll generate some significant attention all over the country," said West, who co-wrote the report with John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy for the AAUP.
The data in the report come from the AAUP's annual study of faculty salaries as well as from information provided by colleges to the Education Department. The data show that the gaps in employment vary significantly both by sector and job title.
Percentage of Women in Faculty Positions, by Sector, 2005-6
|Sector and Job Status||% of Women|
|--Tenure track, but not tenured||40.9%|
|--Tenure track, but not tenured||47.3%|
|--Tenure track, but not tenured||47.4%|
|--Tenure track, but not tenured||53.1%|
Whent it comes to salaries, the averages for women are below those for men at all ranks, but the gaps are quite small in certain categories. The gender salary gap is largest for those off the tenure track, which explains why in the table that follows, the gap grows for "all ranks," which includes instructors and lecturers.
Women's Average Salary as a Percentage of Men's Average Salary, by Sector, 2005-6
|Sector and Job Title||Women's Salary Percentage|
So what do these gaps mean? And what should colleges do based on the gaps they find in their individual data?
Some believe that the extent of the gaps -- especially at doctoral institutions -- suggests that it should no longer be possible for colleges to say that they are just waiting for more women to earn doctoral degrees and start their careers. Higginbotham of Eastern Connecticut noted that graduate programs are producing many women Ph.D.'s and have been doing so for some time. "I think that the failure of the salary gap to move in 30 years in a lot of institutions suggests something that isn't just a matter of time or of women moving up through the ranks," she said.
West said that she realized that there are many factors involved in the gaps, some of them non-discriminatory. But she said that it was especially powerful to note that in any category -- including doctoral universities with a strong science orientation -- some institutions are doing much better than others. "Why is it so different?" she asked.
Some universities, she said, have done more to educate professors about bias, which she said plays a real role, even if it is not of the "no women need apply" variety of previous generations. "Discrimination is going to be entrenched until women reach a critical mass," she said. Bias "takes place in faculty members' minds when they are making individual decisions on who to make offer to. In our society and most societies, women have long been regarded as inferior, but people aren't aware of their own biases -- men and women have some of the same prejudices," West said.
Andy Brantley, chief executive officer of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, said he thought colleges should use the AAUP data as "a starting point" for looking at whether inequities exist. But he cautioned that averages based on job titles could be misleading. He said, for example, that he would want disciplinary breakdowns, and also data comparing people at different job titles with the same number of years elapsed since they earned their doctorates. He noted that at the associate and full professor levels, wide variations are possible in years of experience. "It's incumbent to look at this information and then do an assessment," he said.
Barbara Taylor, the president of CUPA-HR and associate vice chancellor for administration and human resources at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, agreed that the AAUP data were valuable, but also needed more context. She said that the strength of the data is that "it's very easy for people to dismiss an abstract notion" that inequities exist. Being forced to see sharp gaps on a campus "is telling," she said.
Taylor said that she believed a variety of factors were at play, including demographics, personal choices, disciplinary shifts and "old-fashioned discrimination."
She noted that faculty hiring is very decentralized, with different departments having different salary pressures and vastly different pools. In such an environment, it's hard to generalize, she said. And the same goes for commitment to diversity. "The extent to which you get genuine commitment among faculty who are likely to be making selections -- I think that varies a lot" from person to person, she said. Taylor said she was optimistic about the future because there is "a lot more awareness of and buy-in to the idea of increasing diversity on the part of younger faculty," many of whom are only now getting enough seniority to serve on and lead search committees. "There's going to be positive change over time," she said.
Officials at some of the institutions that don't look good in the AAUP data said that there are good -- non-sexist -- reasons for their statistics. At Simpson College, for example, the average salary for female assistant professors is only 75 percent of that for male professors. A spokesman noted, however, that in the last year, four of the five new assistant professors -- those with the least experience in the assistant professor group -- were women. So the college's numbers go down for doing something that adds to the diversity levels: hiring women. The spokesman also said that one male in the pool, whose salary was reported, also has administrative duties, pushing his pay up. The spokesman added, however, that the college planned to look at the data and to deal with any inequities.
At the University of Houston, which has the lowest women's salary ratio for assistant professors among doctoral institutions (79.4 percent), Provost Donald J. Foss also cited recent hiring as a factor. He said that a disproportionate number of hires in recent years have been in science and engineering, fields in which salaries are higher and there are more males than females in the pools. Houston, he said, is "committed to fairness in hiring and pay" and to being "gender blind" in salaries.
Dana Dunn is provost at the University of Texas at Arlington, another institution with a low salary ratio for female assistant professors, 79.7 percent. Dunn, a sociologist whose academic scholarship before she became an administrator focused on gender gaps in earnings, questioned the fairness of the AAUP's comparisons. She said that institutions like hers would look bad because their largest areas are engineering and the liberal arts. In the former, salaries are higher and more positions are held by men. In the latter, the proportion of women is higher and salaries, on average, are lower. Dunn stressed that engineering professors, men and women alike, and liberal arts professors -- men and women alike -- are paid comparably.
"Drawing any conclusions without looking at program mix is going to be highly problematic," she said. "Men and women cluster differently among disciplines."
The following tables show some of the doctoral institutions (where the gaps are largest) that do well or poorly on some of the AAUP's gender indicators. Specialized institutions have been excluded. The nine doctoral universities where women do not make up 10 percent of full professors are all institutions with science orientations, although others with a similar focus have significantly larger shares of women as full professors.
Doctoral Institutions Where Fewer Than 10 Percent of Full Professors Are Women
|Institution||% of Full Professors Who Are Women|
|Colorado School of Mines||6.3%|
|North Dakota State U.||6.7%|
|U. of Missouri at Rolla||7.1%|
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||8.0%|
|U. of Alabama at Huntsville||9.2%|
|Florida Institute of Technology||9.4%|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||9.8%|
The 14 doctoral institutions where women make up more than 30 percent of full professors are led by an institution that was created to educate women, and includes several institutions with strong science programs.
Doctoral Institutions Where More Than 30 Percent of Full Professors Are Women
|Institution||% of Full Professors Who Are Women|
|Texas Woman's U.||55.7%|
|U. of Washington at Bothell||47.4%|
|U. of California at San Francisco||39.6%|
|City U. of New York Graduate Center||37.3%|
|U. of Washington at Tacoma||36.8%|
|U. of San Diego||36.2%|
|U. of Northern Colorado||34.2%|
|Seton Hall U.||33.3%|
|U. of San Francisco||32.3%|
|Indiana U. of Pennsylvania||31.3%|
The following two tables show doctoral universities where the average salary for assistant professors who are female is less than 85 percent of the average for men, and those where the average for women is greater than that for men.
Doctoral Institutions Where Average Salary for Female Assistant Professors Is Less Than 85% That For Men
|Institution|| Avg. Salary for Female Asst. Prof., |
as % of Male Avg.
|U. of Houston||79.4%|
|U. of Texas at Arlington||79.7%|
|Wichita State U.||82.6%|
|U. of Alabama Huntsville||82.7%|
|U. of South Carolina||83.2%|
|Washington U. St. Louis||84.2%|
|U. of Chicago||84.4%|
|U. of Central Florida||84.8%|
At 19 doctoral institutions, the average salary for female assistant professors exceeds that of male assistant professors. This group includes several science-oriented universities that don't have great parity records in other parts of the AAUP survey. Only five of these institutions have salary averages for women that are 104 percent or more of the average for men.
Institutions Where Average Salary of Female Assistant Professor Is Greater Than Male Average
|Institution|| Avg. Salary for Female Asst. Prof., |
as % of Male Avg.
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||108.8%|
|Claremont Graduate U.||108.0%|
|U. of Northern Colorado||104.5%|
|U. of Colorado at Denver||104.1%|
|Saint Louis U.||102.2%|
|U. of California at San Francisco||102.1%|
|Colorado School of Mines||101.8%|
|Northern Illinois U.||101.2%|
|Wayne State U.||101.1%|
|College of William & Mary||101.0%|
|U. of Maryland at Baltimore||100.5%|
|U. of Notre Dame||100.3%|
|U. of Georgia||100.1%|