Women in higher ed still only earn 80% of what men make

'Creating urgency is a big deal,' says school official

A recent College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) report found that female administrators in higher education earn only 80 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts.

That percentage has only changed by three cents since 2001, when women in the field were paid 77 cents to a man's dollar, Rick Seltzer reports for Inside Higher Ed.

The results of the study come at a time when most colleges are talking about how to better support diversity and equality, says CUPA-HR's director of research Jacqueline Bichsel.

Perhaps this is why the 20% pay gap comes as a surprise, Seltzer writes.

The pay gap in higher ed is just marginally better than the average gender pay gap across all full-time employees in the United States, which indicates that women make an average of 79 cents for each dollar earned by men.

In spite of the lingering pay gap, researchers did find evidence that institutions have been making an effort to recruit and retain women in high-level roles where they are traditionally underrepresented.

These recruiting efforts often include a deliberate pay raise. "Women working in administrative positions mostly filled by men did earn relatively more than many of their peers who work in positions largely filled by women—and in a handful of cases, those outnumbered women earned more than their male counterparts," writes Seltzer.

So, for example, in chief facilities officer positions—where men outnumber women by nearly nine to one—women are paid $1.17 for every dollar that men make.

This salary bump does not extend to positions with more women, or where significantly higher salaries are at stake. 

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For instance, women currently make up 40% of chief financial officers, but their salaries are roughly 77% of their male peers' salaries.

Overall, the CUPA-HR report found that women make up about 50% of higher education administrators nationwide. When you look at top executive roles, however, this number drops to only 30%.

In 2015, the American Council on Education (ACE) discovered that only 26% of school presidents were female. Susan Madsen, a professor management at Utah Valley University, responded to the report at the time: "Creating urgency is a big deal... If the conversation dies down, we can't think change will still happen, it most likely won't" (Seltzer, Inside Higher Ed, 2/15).

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