University continues to address gender pay gap within faculty, staff

Eleanor Dearman

Out of UT-Austin’s 100 highest paid employees, only 20 are women, according to data from the Texas Tribune Government Salaries Explorer.

In November, Chancellor William McRaven announced his plan to close the pay gap in the UT System, something the University of Texas has worked for on a campus level for the past several years. While the gap has been closed substantially, there is still more that can be done to improve equity between male and female employees. 

“Pay is how we quantify somebody’s worth in our society,” journalism assistant professor Gina Chen said. “The reason why equal pay is important isn’t really necessarily just the money itself, but it’s because that’s how we express value.”

As of the end of June, the median salary for male employees at UT-Austin, both faculty and staff members, was about $9,700 more than their female counterparts. This number varies from department to department, with men making more than women in 202 out of 290 listed departments with at least one employee of each gender in full-time positions. 

When looking at departments with more than one full-time employee of each gender, in the 10 departments where the gap is the largest, there is one women in the highest-paid position, though three of the departments have women in the second-highest spot.

Out of the 10 departments with women making more than men, again excluding those with only one male or female full-time employee, six have women in the highest-paid spot. There are four female deans on campus in UT’s 18 colleges.

The chart shows which titles are held the most by male and female employees. The circle size indicates the number of employees in the department for a given gender. Blue represents male employees and pink represents female employees. The Texas Tribune’s Government Salaries Explorer provides the data. Interactive by Elly Dearman | Daily Texan Staff

These median salaries should not be taken at face value — instead, they should be considered alongside several other factors, including field, rank and years of experience, according to Janet Dukerich, chair of UT’s gender equity council and senior vice provost for Faculty Affairs.

Since October 2014, the council has been working to put a value to the pay gap for faculty members on campus and determine where the gap stands for faculty members in the University’s different academic departments. The council found that male faculty members make about 2.3 percent more than women faculty members, overall on campus.

“If you factor in what the field is, rank, years of experience, then that gap goes to a non-significant difference,” Dukerich said.

In specific colleges, such as liberal arts, natural sciences and engineering, the gap ranges from 4.8, .7 and 2.7 percent, respectively, although the council is currently reviewing the data to make sure those numbers are as accurate as possible according to Tasha Beretvas, gender equity council member and associate dean for research and graduate studies. 

“I’m the parent of a girl. I am a girl. But I would hope that similarly that if the inequity is actually favoring girls over boys, I would care for that too,” Beretvas said. “No one wants to see inequity.”

The pay gap is not isolated at the University of Texas, either. It is found nationwide, where, on average, women make about 79 cents for every dollar men make.

“There is evidence that that is improving, but we are not there yet,” Chen said, speaking to the gap’s prevalence across the country. “In my mind, being there is when women get paid the same amount as men for every job, consistently across the country, and there’s certainly evidence that that’s not the case yet.”

*Note: median wages include only fulltime employees. The number of employees includes both fulltime and part time. The Texas Tribune’s Government Salary Explorer provides the data. Interactive by Sam Limmerick | Daily Texan Staff

This is not the committee’s first time to look at the gender pay gap. The committee studied the gap back in 2008, when they found a significant difference in the salaries of men and women, with female professors making an average of $9,028 less than male professors. 

“Overall, we’ve gone a long way in terms of making a difference between what was seen in 2008 when there was a significant difference,” Dukerich said. “That’s not to say that there are still areas on campus where there is still a gap between male and female professors. So that’s what we’re looking at now.”

Hillary Hart, former chair of faculty council and member of the gender equity council, said she has personally seen a change in the culture towards women during her time on campus. When she first started in the engineering program working on engineering communication, as the only women and the only non-engineer, Hart said she experienced “unconscious sexism” that has diminished over the years.

“What I remember from the old days was this unconscious sexism,” Hart said. “So walking through the halls … a male faculty member would say, ‘Smile, Hillary. Come on. Smile.’ He’d never say that to a guy.”

More recently, Hart said she has fewer challenges in her department, although she said this is not always the case in other departments on campus. 

“Some of it is luck, honestly,” Hart said. “My department has always been a good, caring department. They care about their faculty. And a very fair department, and I know that’s not true throughout the University. I know it’s not. There gets to be these political differences or issues.” 

There has been less done to examine equity in UT staff. Staff Council chair Stuart Tendler said while there have been conversations in the University Staff Council surrounding dissatisfaction with wages in general, to his knowledge the wages of women versus men has not been in the discussion or studied. 

As far as System-wide policies, McRaven would like to see the pay gap closed completely in the UT System, according to System spokesperson Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. McRaven is asking all System schools to submit plans to close the gap in five years.

“Chancellor McRaven has tasked the campuses to examine these trends through conducting their own detailed assessments and submit plans to close any gaps and ensure fairness in faculty compensation throughout UT System,” LaCoste-Caputo wrote in a statement.

Correction:  In the 10 departments  in which the gap is the largest, excluding those with only one male or female full-time employee, one woman is in the highest-paid position. Additionally, in the 10 departments with women making more than men, again excluding those with only one male or female full-time employee, six have women in the highest-paid spot.