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November 9, 2006

Gender Inequity: Pitt officials respond to AAUP report

In its “AAUP Faculty Gender Equity Indicators 2006” report released Oct. 26, the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) faults higher education institutions nationally for endemic gender inequity in four areas: employment status (full-time or part-time); tenure status (non-tenure track, tenure track and tenured); full professor status, and average salary of women as a percentage of men’s salaries broken down by academic rank (assistant, associate, full professor and all faculty).

The report concludes that women in academia are not treated the same as their male counterparts.

“The barriers for women in higher education not only raise questions of basic fairness, but place serious limitations on the success of educational institutions themselves,” the report states.

(See related story this issue.)

At the request of the University Times, several Pitt administrators and faculty members offered their opinions on the AAUP report, which have been edited in some instances for length.



President, University Senate

Gender equity for female faculty in higher education is a complex topic that does not lend itself to simple solutions. The University Senate lacks the specific data needed to make an accurate assessment of whether gender discrimination exists at Pitt.

Although universities have made considerable strides in addressing this issue — women were 22 percent of all full-time faculty 30 years ago; today they are 39 percent — more remains to be done to achieve parity.

The 2006 AAUP report also shows women still lagging behind men in tenure status, full professor status and average salary at most U.S. universities and colleges. The specific numbers for Pitt are close to the average for all American doctoral universities in each category.

Inequities between male and female faculty are greatest at doctoral institutions like Pitt [compared to] associate institutions such as community colleges, where near-parity exists.

However, associate institutions emphasize teaching as the major criterion for promotion and tenure, whereas doctoral ones stress research and scholarly activity. This suggests the latter requirement is responsible for faculty gender inequities at doctoral institutions. If so, the relevant question becomes: Why do women have a harder time meeting research and scholarly requirements for promotion and tenure?

Since research and scholarly requirements at doctoral universities apply equally regardless of gender, it seems these institutions are not intentionally discriminating against women: They do not require only female faculty to do research, nor to do more research than men. There is no evidence to suggest that men are better than women at research, either.

A likelier explanation may be that it is easier for men because women in our society often bear the greater share of family responsibilities (e.g., raising children, caring for aging parents); thus, women may be either unwilling or, in fact, unable to devote the time necessary to meet the research and scholarly requirements for tenure.

Research universities have developed policies to help advance women faculty, including stopping the tenure clock for family leave. In 1983 Pitt formed the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns, still active today, to promote advancement of women.

The University Senate has devoted two recent plenary sessions to women’s issues, including Oct. 19’s “Fostering Mentoring for Sustaining Organizational Vitality.” The Senate formed an ad hoc committee for the support and advancement of women at Pitt, which ended its two-year mission in June.

While Pitt has responded well and appropriately, we need to continue to monitor and work on these issues:

• We should compare recent tenure-track faculty hires by gender and discipline with PhDs granted in each discipline, to verify that women are being hired in proportion to their availability.

• Faculty in non-tenure track positions should be provided the opportunity to return to the tenure stream if their circumstances justify it (as is already being done in the Health Sciences schools). This would promote gender equity because a higher proportion of women than men occupy lower-paying non-tenure track positions with no opportunity for advancement.

• Women are usually promoted through the ranks starting at assistant professor, as opposed to being hired with tenure at the associate professor or professor level. So it might be useful to examine whether lower salaries for women faculty at Pitt are due to ill effects from salary compression resulting from this hiring pattern.



Vice provost for Graduate Studies, interim vice provost for Undergraduate Studies, chairperson of the provost’s advisory committee on women’s concerns (PACWC) and professor of economics and public policy

It is good to see that the representation of women in academe has increased nationally, even though women still make up only 34.1 percent of the full-time faculty in doctoral institutions, a 5.3 percentage point increase since 1998-99.

The faculties at the AAU public universities have gone from having an average representation of 24.9 percent women in 1998-99, to having 31.7 percent women in 2005-2006, and the University of Pittsburgh has been a leader among the AAU publics. Between 1998-99 and 2005-2006, the percentage of our full-time faculty that are women increased 12.5 percentage points from 25.3 percent to 37.8 percent. This is the largest increase among all AAU publics.

Nationally, a number of factors have contributed to the relatively low representation of women in academics, and it is through steady work to reduce the impact of these factors that representation has and hopefully will continue to increase.

Mary Ann Mason, dean of the graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, has written extensively on issues that have traditionally affected the pipeline of women in academics: Fewer women went to graduate school; fewer of those who did go to graduate school earned degrees; fewer of those earning degrees took positions in academics, and even fewer of those took positions at research universities.

There are a lot of leaks in the pipeline for women in academics.

There is also an extensive literature discussing how subtle biases and traditional hiring strategies can negatively affect the number of women hired. These are difficult to address, but search committees are taking steps such as working to broaden the pool of applicants considered for positions — steps that tend to improve the recruitment process generally, as well as increase the representation of women, which is good for all of us. Again, we will see over time how these steps affect the representation of women on university faculties.



President of the University of Pittsburgh chapter of the AAUP and associate professor of sociology

Sex inequity is a national problem, and it’s appropriate to take that perspective. Researchers attribute wage gaps to a lot of factors.

One part of the equation is occupational segregation — market-related differences that explain why someone in chemistry or economics is making a different salary from someone in English or sociology.

A lot of research suggests that the wage gap has very little to do with “bad actors” making hiring/promotion/pay decisions on the basis of intentional or unintentional biases. The point is that the wage gap is structural, not intentional. It comes from a complex combination of occupational segregation, salary compression, market failures and organizational inertia and culture.

Most fundamentally, the wage gap comes from the androcentric organization of most workplaces — that is, the organization of jobs and careers and compensation based on the assumption that the normal, desirable employee is moving on a lockstep career trajectory, available for endless hours of work with no demands for familial or social life, and otherwise remarkably like a man with a full-time homemaker for a wife.

Women still face a different set of obstacles in combining work lives with family lives. This is reflected in their career choices. The message is that women should change their choices and act like men and we’d reward them.

We need to create a whole definitive notion of equity not equality, justice not sameness.

In the academy it is especially difficult to spell out the factors in a given job — skills, effort, productivity, responsibility — that determine how much value is added in that job and what it is worth to an employer — irrespective of the characteristics of the job-holder.

The solution is having a commitment to equal pay, which is the law since 1964, and having a commitment to comparable worth or pay equity. And having those commitments from the top administration to the chairs of the departments and those making the pay decisions, not just for faculty but also for staff.

This strategy is probably the only one that will work in the academy. But first you need good information on what people are making and why.

Doing a really good professional-grade equity study of salaries on this campus is something that would enable Pitt administrators to benchmark their progress toward pay equity.

Human Resources must have the capacity to provide the necessary data without identifying individuals. With the data, the University could do a very sophisticated study that not only measures the gap and controls for the things we know create variations, but also could study the gap not just at the midpoint but at the two extremes. You need to look at more than the mean and median. You need to know the standard deviations to determine how broad the range of pay is.

In a Pitt pay study, it would be helpful to see the high end. If there is a group of “superstars” who demand a particularly high market wage, the variable in pay likely would be greater than expected. You want to capture the variables among the superstars that has to do with sex. It would be good to know if there’s a penis premium that male superstars get.

The University has a mediocre record at retaining “star” women faculty, although perhaps the recent retention of some senior women scholars marks the turning of the tide in that regard.

There are fewer female superstars to compare, in part because you’re not a superstar until you’re a full professor. Women are underrepresented in the full professor category. In addition, the wage gap in that category is particularly problematic.

Because there are so few women full professors, women also may disproportionately be obligated to serve the University instead of having the options that men do to say, “I’m a scholar not an administrator.” It’s practically coercive and they don’t have the option to be the kinds of scholars men have the option to be if they’re taking time out for being a chair or other administrative/mentoring jobs. It’s the epitome of thankless labor.

I haven’t observed much change in attitudes, environment or results with regard to the sex gap in wages at the University of Pittsburgh.

Several times over the course of my dozen years here, women have gathered to push the administration to make changes and especially to have a consistent advocate for women’s interests in the administration, largely to no avail. Repeated calls for a professionally executed salary study have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Requests for data that would allow researchers to measure the degree of occupational race and sex segregation and the sex wage gap in faculty and staff positions on campus have likewise yielded nothing.

In the case of both staff and faculty, wage inequality comes from the continued assumption that there is men’s work and there is women’s work. This is a form of discrimination that has nothing to do with the biases of individuals or committees making hiring and promotion decisions, or negotiating salaries or raises.

So, in some cases, women do work that is less valued by the market. Therefore, they get paid less than men, because the work they do is different — and devalued. Even when women do the same work that men do — and are equally productive — they get paid less than men do, because they are women doing the work.

To change things, you have to have your strategy straight. You have to know the problem, what’s causing the problem and the right strategy. We can’t know that unless we have a really good study that will show us what’s going on here and the dynamics of what the change is over time.



Member of PACWC, professor of psychology, business administration and women’s studies and past president of the University Senate

Pitt has been improving on many of these indicators, but I feel we need to keep working on this.

Issues such as hiring and salaries are very complicated. On hiring, there is clear data that women’s work is not evaluated as highly as men’s when people know the gender of the person doing the work. Hiring committees need to be educated to understand this and be aware that female candidates are probably objectively better than they appear to be. Letters of recommendation may be affected by these same biases.

Similar biases occur as department chairs or executive committees make recommendations for raises. Women earn less than men, at least in some cases, because these same biases are operating. The problem is further compounded by the fact that women are not socialized to ask for high starting salaries. This puts some women behind in terms of salary during their first year. It is very hard to catch up in such a situation.

Another way in which biases enter the system is that scholarship related to women’s issues is often devalued. Years ago, I was openly told that my research on women would not “count” in terms of tenure. Of course, such open statements are rarely made today, but the bias of seeing such work as unimportant still persists.

Women are also affected by not being as able to move to another institution as easily as men, because of family concerns. Women rarely have a dependent partner who will simply follow them to a new location. They may also care more about disruption for children caused by a move.

In many units, one of the best ways to negotiate for an improved work environment or for higher salary is to have an offer of employment from another institution.



Co-chair of the Senate’s educational policies committee and associate professor of social work and psychiatry

The AAUP report shows that we are not all that close to attaining gender equity. The 75 percent overall salary earnings of women faculty compared to men is a telling statistic: Women earn less than men at every rank, and when the ranks are combined the figures are the worst, because women also face barriers to advancing and are disproportionately represented in the junior ranks.

This is well known to women, although the men I know well seem surprised. Women professionals routinely share stories of the difficulties they have getting equal pay and equal promotion opportunities for equal duties and accomplishment.

Female-dominated professions often are led by men, and in male-dominated professions there can be a sense of unease in including women in the informal networks critical for career advancement. People currently in leadership positions must continue to redouble their efforts to advance women to the leadership circles, and to support them there.

Women work especially hard during the years that they care for dependent children and elder parents. The modern workplace is unforgiving about these duties, and does not step up to the moral responsibility of supporting workers with family duties through providing affordable child care and flexibility to workers who are caring for the physical, medical and also emotional needs of the very young and the very old.

But it is a mistake to think that women’s great role in their families is the root of the problem. Women and men must continue to commit themselves to accepting women’s leadership in order to address the deep inequities women still face.

—Peter Hart & Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 6

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