Campus study finds that women, ethnic minority faculty members earn slightly lower average salaries

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A recent campus study found that women and ethnic minority faculty earn slightly lower average salaries than non-minority male faculty.

The study focuses on the salaries of tenure-track faculty with emphasis on gender and ethnicity equity. The report found that underrepresented minority groups’ average salaries fall behind by 1 to 1.8 percent, and women’s salaries are smaller by 1.8 to 4.8 percent. Results for various departments and colleges varied.

Following the completion of a study by the UC system on salary equity, then-UC president Mark Yudof directed individual campuses to perform their own studies in 2012. UC Berkeley’s plan for an equity study was jointly developed by the administration and various Academic Senate committees and approved in 2013.

According to Janet Broughton, chair of the steering committee that conducted the study and vice provost for faculty, the study is important because it clearly shows that average salary differences among subgroups of campus faculty do exist.

“We don’t know what combination of factors causes these differences, but I’m confident that just having the basic knowledge will be very helpful,” she said in an email.

A key recommendation of the study includes the renewal of a three-year program, the Targeted Decoupling Initiative, which was initially created to compensate faculty adequately and lessen salary inequality. According to Broughton, the study will help senate committees design its goals and funding levels.

Leslie Salzinger, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies and secretary of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association, said the report’s recommendations were strong. But women and minorities are overrepresented in fields where the average pay is lower, and, if that is controlled for, she said, this wipes out some of the visible inequalities.

Recruitment, tenure and retention measures can yield gaps between faculty whose salaries are linked to the most recent market figures for their respective fields, which can sometimes be higher than their equally-accomplished departmental peers, according to the report.

Salzinger said if the university evaluates pay equity on the basis of external market figures, it creates a circular issue, since those figures are “problematic in terms of gender and race.”

In order to address this type of gap, Salzinger says the campus would have to be willing to push back against the market setting of salaries and “prioritize equality over market decisions,” but recognized that this would be very difficult, since the campus is still competing for hires.

James Vernon, co-chair of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association and campus professor, said the conclusion of the report is that campus faculty are underpaid, and said it highlights just how limited the campus is by budget constraints.

“Now we’re in an environment in which the administration is forced to prioritize who it’s able to pay at a proper rate,” Vernon said.

The report also accounts for possible “psychosocial factors at work in academic life” in the workplace, such as “stereotype threat,” where faculty members fear accidentally representing a negative stereotype of their gender or ethnic minority.

Broughton said that going forward, she plans to repeat this study annually to see whether following the recommendations at the end of the report has discernible effects.

Suhauna Hussain covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.