University makes slow progress toward equal pay and treatment for female professors

Jordan Rudner

The University has made slow progress in responding to a report that female professors are paid less, promoted later and more likely to leave before receiving tenure. 

In a University-commissioned report written by the Gender Equity Task Force in 2008, several issues of inequity were identified, including a wage gap between male and female faculty members at the full professor level. The gap was calculated with a multivariate analysis that used statistical modeling to control for differences in faculty salaries by field, rank and a variety of other characteristics. Even after factoring in these differences, female full professors earned on average $9,028 less than their male counterparts.

Janet Ellzey, vice provost of the International Office and mechanical engineering professor, took on gender equity as part of her portfolio in 2009 and also chaired the original task force’s subcommittee on compensation. Ellzey said in 2011, female full professors earned 96 percent of what their male counterparts earned.

The University aimed to tackle the wage gap through a series of targeted raises, but had to slow their progress after severe budget cuts in 2010. 

President William Powers Jr. acknowledged the impact of budget cuts on the University’s progress toward achieving equity, but said he was pleased with what progress has already been made. 

“As we emerge from the budget crisis, we will work to find the money to close salary gaps, promote equity for faculty, staff and students and complete the mission we started in 2008,” Powers said in an emailed statement. 

The 2008 report also addressed a “promotion and attrition gap” for advancing faculty. The report found more women than men leave the University before receiving tenure, and women who do receive tenure tend to receive it later than their male counterparts.

Ellzey said currently, long-term promotion rates are similar for men and women, although she did not provide specific figures.

“In the cases where promotion rates for men and women in a single year from a particular college are not similar, [Powers and Provost Steve Leslie] look over the case and confirm that the process was fair,” Ellzey said.

Ellzey said more attention is paid to issues of equitable promotion, but confirmed the University has not implemented many of the strategies the report recommended. 

Recommendations that have not been implemented include providing a semester of sabbatical for tenured and tenure-track faculty members, which would take into account the “decreased mobility of women faculty members,” implementing neutral third-party exit interviews for departing faculty and improving and standardizing mentoring programs across campus.

Gretchen Ritter, the vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance who co-authored the original report, said the mentors would not necessarily have to be women, although that would increase familiarity with the issues faced by underrepresented groups.

“Having a senior mentor who pays attention is the most important thing,” Ritter said.

Earlier this semester, the provost established a University Gender Equity Council, which includes representatives from every college and school. One of the goals of the council is to discuss best practices for recruiting and mentoring.