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December 7, 2006


Significant inequities exist between female and male faculty at U.S. doctorate-granting universities with respect to full-time status, tenure status, full professor status and average salary, according to a recent report from the American Association of University Professors (Nov. 9 University Times).

The report shows that women comprise only 40.9 percent of tenure stream faculty at U.S. doctoral institutions (42.7 percent at the University of Pittsburgh) and 25.8 percent of tenured faculty (24.1 percent at Pitt), despite women having attained near-parity with men in graduate degrees earned. E.g., in 2004, women received 59 percent of Master’s degrees, 49 percent of first professional degrees and 48 percent of doctorates.

The fact that women constitute a much higher percentage of probationary tenure-stream faculty than they do tenured faculty suggests that doctoral institutions are hiring more women into tenure track positions now than before, and therefore are trying to close the gender gap in the number of tenured faculty. It can also indicate a pattern of hiring women but not awarding them tenure.

Movement of women into tenured faculty positions at doctoral institutions is a slow process for a variety of reasons, lagging well behind the rate at which women earn doctorates (approximately 25 percent of tenured faculty vs. (approximately 50 percent of recent doctorates).

One reason for proportionately fewer tenured women is that a tenured position typically lasts about 30 years, and fewer women were earning graduate degrees back when many of today’s tenured faculty were being hired. E.g., in 1972 women earned 41 percent of US Master’s degrees, 16 percent of doctorates and 6 percent of first professional degrees.

A second factor (which I cited in the Nov. 9 University Times article) is the likelihood of women having more difficulty than men in meeting tenure requirements at doctoral institutions because they frequently must devote more time and energy than their male counterparts to family duties.

Universities are not going to set lower tenure standards for women than for men, but it is possible to devise ways to assist more female faculty in meeting tenure’s high standards. This was one of the goals of the Senate’s latest plenary session, “Fostering Mentoring for Sustaining Organizational Vitality.”

Field of study is another factor that affects the hiring of female tenure stream faculty by doctoral institutions, because there are fewer qualified women candidates in some fields. E.g., women earn about 60 percent of PhDs granted in English and 45 percent of PhDs in biological sciences, yet only 17 percent of doctorates in physics.

Field of study likewise affects salary. Since there are more women in humanities fields than in science, engineering or business — and universities generally pay humanities faculty less — this is a major reason why women have lower average salaries than men at each faculty rank in the tenure stream (assistant, associate and full professor).

Even taking into account field of study, institution type, tenure, rank, degree and age, women faculty still earn on average about 5 percent less than comparable men faculty, according to studies cited in the AAUP report.

Male/female salary inequity among Pitt faculty is most extreme in the average for all ranks: women faculty earn only 74.8 percent of men’s pay. This overall category shows the greatest inequity because it includes lower-paying non-tenure track positions, and women hold 56.8 percent of Pitt’s full-time non-tenure stream posts.

Salary compression is an additional factor that may disproportionately affect female faculty. It can occur when a faculty member has been employed at one institution for a long time. Women are especially susceptible to salary compression because they usually enter the tenure stream at lower salary levels — assistant professor or non-tenure stream — and may have less mobility than men in seeking jobs at other universities due to their often higher burden of family responsibilities.

To determine whether women faculty at Pitt are being paid less for doing work that is comparable to their male counterparts, men’s and women’s salaries need to be examined by discipline and rank. Pitt’s administration already does this, but shares the information only with select committees such as the University planning and budget committee.

The University of Pittsburgh clearly needs to continue promoting gender equity. The Senate will help by forming a new ad hoc committee, chaired by Senate Past President Irene Frieze, whose mission will be to work with the administration to promote gender equity at Pitt. Any faculty member interested in serving on this committee should contact her at

As Senate president, I seek to promote equity for all our faculty and staff. Forming this ad hoc committee will help to achieve this goal.

John J. Baker

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