Women professors make about 87 cents to a man's dollar

'The American university is still an old boys' club'

There is a substantial gender pay gap in higher education despite women providing much of the labor, The Daily Beast's Samantha Allen writes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education compiled faculty and staff salary and gender data from about 4,700 colleges and universities from 2003 to 2013. According to Allen, the visualization makes it clear that "Women may keep our colleges running but the American university is still an old boys' club."

Women are majority of higher ed students, minority of trustees

Women are underrepresented in faculty nationwide. In fact, the ratio is similar to that of the tech industry—which has been in the media spotlight recently for lack of diversity.

In 2013, women made up only 30.4% of full professors at four-year colleges and 29.1% at public four-year institutions. That is just above Twitter's 21% of female leadership and Facebook's 23%, says Allen.

Women are, however, better represented in lecturer and instructor positions—though they frequently are paid less. On average, the salary for a male lecturer at a four-year private college in 2013 was $61,567—compared with a female's $56,594.

Additionally, women are more likely to hold part-time positions, rather than full-time ones. Analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that in 2012 about 275,000 of the approximately 500,000 women in faculty positions were only part-time, according to Allen. Frequently, these positions offer little money or job security.

Full-time female professors face financial issues as well. Their average earnings compared with males' fell from 2003 to 2013:

  • At private institutions, they dropped from 87.1% to 86.1%; and
  • At public four-year colleges, they fell from 88.5% to 87.4%.

In 2013-2014 at Dartmouth College, for example, full-time male professors earned on average $28,000 more than females did, and at Harvard University the gap was about $15,000. The problem cannot be ignored at women's colleges either, says Allen. He points out that, in the same year, male professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and lecturers all made more than their female peers at Smith College.

There are signs of change, say some experts. "Historically, there were more male professors than women professors. As they stay—as they earn the rank of professor—their value is going to compound over time," says John Barnshaw, a senior higher ed researcher at the American Association of University Professors. As more women enter the tenure track, the gap may close, he adds.

However, Allen argues that may be more difficult that it seems. "Women will have to survive in part-time jobs with no benefits until they land assistant professor positions only to end up navigating work-life balance on the tenure track," she says (Allen, Daily Beast, 4/9). 

The takeaway: The gender wage gap is prevalent—and a problem—in the higher education industry, argues Samantha Allen in The Daily Beast.

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