A two-part series focusing on the role of women facing tenure in higher education shows the difference in pay gap, administrative support, and the flexibility of position. In part one, discussions about the pay gap highlight the systematic bias towards promotion of women based on pay, in and out of the STEM field.
Being a professor seems like a fun gig, right? Imagine the chance to teach students without parents involved, cushy jobs, the chance to research while doing the minimal work, and suddenly turning into Indiana Jones. If that’s your idea? You’re in for a rude awakening if you think men and women hold equal footing.
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This is a two part series about the role of women in education: both in pay and flexibility for family life. The gender gap is real and how it effects women can be seen in related topics.
In higher education, there’s a very serious divide between male and female pay. Earlier this year, Inside Higher Ed discussed the pay gap between disciplines and the surprising discrepancy. Most studies focus on full-time and tenured faculty since adjuncts and part-time faculty are often overworked and underpaid.
For example, a new assistant professor from a research university teaching engineering will earn $87,017 compared to a history graduate’s $62,308. That’s a wide gap, especially since most school demand some form of history as part of the core curriculum.
However, it can be noted that the non-tenured, full-time faculty receive just 87.8% of the same salary as the tenured professor. If you want to teach and make a little more money, move to a public university, too. But what does that have to do with gender? Well, if there’s a gap of female candidates, the salaries will be smaller since studies have proven that women who push for more money are often considered difficult or demanding.
At Duke University, the average salary of male professor is $152,160 as opposed to a woman’s $117,628. Women represent a smaller sample of faculty across the board, too. With 85% male in engineering and 82% in business, the 79% in natural sciences seems downright progressive. Even though a Cornell study proclaimed that women are preferred 2-to-1 over men in professorships, Lindsey Glickfeld's experience in trying to find people to hire against a "leaky pipe" at Duke seems to indicate a difference of practical application to theory.
Women also face devalue of education by chosen discipline. Men may face similar feedback, but as noted at Duke, the number of hires are significantly higher for the gender. Additionally, the statistics bear out that women of color face an even slimmer chance of higher education tenure than white women in science and tech areas.
According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), 47% of workforce women held traditionally-female jobs (administrative assistant, nursing, and teaching) while less than 5% of men held the same jobs in 2013. The number is surprising since the Industrial Age had far more men secretaries than women to start. Conversely, only 5% of women held male-dominated jobs—such as engineering and computer programming—compared to the 42% male demographic.
Data indicates that for women to be hired in STEM positions, more recruiting and communication is needed from the higher ups. Women educators looking to enter higher education must be prepared for a hard battle in representation and pay.
Stipend versus salary
It would easy to say the pay gap starts in graduate school for the most part. Looking for a Ph.D. in higher education may come down to stipend for many women, if The Chronicle of Higher Education is to be believed.
Student debt is a hot topic on Capitol Hill right now. And if a student graduates with a higher debt, then the chance of being choosy and picking the best option may not feel feasible. A woman may prefer to not rock the boat and ask for more cash and benefits if loan officers are knocking on the door and there’s 15 people waiting to take the position.
The journal also points out that while engineering students face 3% of debt for over $90,000, humanities and social sciences made up to 10 to 15%. Young graduates learn to take scraps when offered and that continues as they move into the tenured work force, an increasingly small position pool.
One business graduate student at the University of Houston received a $33,000 a stipend, while across campus a history graduate received roughly a third of that. History is not a STEM course, so it’s not focused on as deeply and higher rate of debt compared to others. In 2015, the stipend was raised to $16,000, only half of the business students. The change came after the lesser paid students demanded more—including women.
According to GradPay’s survey, Michigan State University’s Anthropology department offers $11,000 a year. Meanwhile, Columbia University’s Computer Science and Physics departments offers $33,500 and $32,000 respectively.
And who tends to dominate the non-STEM fields? Women. So the gap begins in graduate school as valuation of degree fluctuates based on employment market and government insistence.
Last year, Higher Ed reported that stipend graduates advised incoming students to really evaluate how much schools are willing to pay for the work being offered on top of completing a Ph.D. At the University of Texas in Austin, students created a “bill of rights” to demand equality in pay. With graduate research assistants pay ranging from $9,468 to $28,330, numbers indicate that lower paying disciplines like humanities and social sciences will be left out.
While the dean of graduate students believes “talking about compensation” involves items like $3,784 in tuition costs and nearly $500 a month in healthcare per student, the graduates don’t agree that budget cuts should come from those helping take the burden off professors—who in turn can produce great research and visibility for the university.
What a student focuses on in college follows into employment, so the idea of pay discrepancy bears fruit directly on the doors of hiring chairs when it comes to STEM fields. It’s hard to find an equal gender in the field if unconscious bias plays a heavy role in determining the future. Flexibility in higher education may be dependent on region, but regardless, women still want to be equally represented in pay and to have a voice—no matter the chosen field.
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The second part of the series discusses discipline trajectory due to gender and assumptions on pregnancy and family expectations. Flexibility is an important part of the workforce, but is it necessary in higher education positions?