Brother, can you spare $100K? (Oops–$220K?)

Inside Higher Ed reports today on a major study on gender and the pay gap between faculty women and men by Paul D. Umbach, an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Iowa.  It concludes that “even using the most sophisticated possible approach to take into consideration non-sexist reasons for pay differentials–a pay gap remains, based on gender. And while this can’t be definitively tied to sexism, there aren’t a lot of likely alternative explanations.”  That’s an average gap of $3,200 per year, every year–or (Historiann’s arithmetic here, multiplying $3,200 by 30 years, which is dodgy because the gap would almost certainly increase over time) at least a $96,000 career deficit for women compared to their male colleagues.  (UPDATE:  See Susan’s and Nathan’s corrections in the comments below.  The news is even worse than I had been able to comprehend with my tiny deficient non-economist brain!  It looks like at least one man–if Nathan is in fact a man–is earning his unjustly inflated salary!) 

litebrite-tits.jpgPull up a chair and a box of Kleenex, girls and boys, because there’s something for everyone here (but as usual, the bad news is mostly for us girls!)

  1. Controlling for all factors, there is a 4% gap between the salaries of female and male faculty.  (The pay gap goes up to 14% when controlling only discipline and institution type.)
  2. Men as well as women working in the fields that feature more women faculty have lower salaries than those working in male-dominated fields, but even in those fields men are earning 4% more than their female colleagues.
  3. Quoting from the story directly, “Those disciplines [mentioned in #2 above] also tend to be teaching-oriented disciplines. Similarly women were disproportionately employed at teaching-oriented institutions, which also pay less. So professors who are women, teach in a field that cares about teaching and work at a college that really cares about teaching face a ‘triple hit’ on salary, [Umbach] said, ‘and it adds up to real money.'”

Read the whole thing–it’s brief, and the author, Scott Jaschik, has done a remarkably good job analyzing a lot of complex information and squeezing it into a readable article.  Professor Umbach raises some interesting questions for how we assign merit pay, and politely asks us to consider how those “fair rubrics” might perpetuate the pay gap.  Is it really “fair” to effectively penalize Art Historians or Philosophy professors because they aren’t eligible to compete for $500,000 grants from the National Science Foundation?  Since Corporate University (TM) is all about the money, honey, why haven’t colleges and universities figured out that it’s a lot cheaper to have/be an outstanding Liberal Arts college?  Historians and people in English and French departments don’t need half a million dollar labs to do our research–just a little time off, a library card, and perhaps some extra dough for research trips out of town.  That $500,000 for one lab could buy 10 humanities scholars a year of leave to go write their books and burnish their national and international reputations.)

One caveat:  the first comments on the article suggest that this pay gap arises because women allegedly don’t bargain for higher salaries when they’re hired.  False!  Trust me–Historiann has tried, but there’s that icky gender thing that happens then, too.  Whereas men are respected for being assertive and having a high opinion of themselves, women who take the same approach get less, because, well, who the hell do those pushy and obnoxious broads they think they are, anyway?  Mary Ward’s research demonstrates that in some cases, it does hurt to ask for more.  This is all of a piece with Historiann’s theory that across time and space women are expected to volunteer their labor, and only (some) men can expect to get paid for their work.

15 thoughts on “Brother, can you spare $100K? (Oops–$220K?)

  1. Also, even if women do negotiate, the starting salary offered to them might have already been lower than the salary offered to a male professor. So, if everybody is bargaining for an increase of 5 to 10 percent of the inital offer, women will still end up lower.


  2. Even if women don’t negotiate (which I don’t believe), it’s not like that should be seen as justifying their lower salaries – if they don’t negotiate, it’s because modern society doesn’t encourage them to do so because of gendered expectations about men’s/women’s behavior – it’s not like there’s a feminine “inability to negotiate” gene. So it’s still all part of the same problem. (But I agree that women who negotiate are going to be seen differently from [some] men who negotiate.)


  3. I’ve seen differences as large as $10K. 3 hires I’ve witnessed in last decade at the same place (not my place, though): a bullying man, negotiated heavily, got offer upped very much and also more respect for his attitude; a woman, tried to negotiate nicely, almost got offer rescinded because of it, did not get offer upped; a non bullying man, negotiated nicely, got offer upped a little.


  4. Your calculation is fine, except that it escapes the wonder of compounding: that $3,600 in the first year, assuming it was saved compounds at a rate that makes it work a lot more after 30+ years.

    Now maybe we should have bargaining workshops at the Berks?


  5. Oh noes–you’re totally right, Susan! Duh–I was looking at it as though it were a lottery cash prize. Of course, smart broads would have diverted that $3200 into TIAA-CREF or some kind of investment.

    Does anyone else remember that “talking Barbie” of infamy in the 1990s that said “Math is hard”?


  6. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » New major study on gender and the pay gap between faculty women and men.

  7. The problem is not that “women don’t negotiate.” The problem, and I have lots of empirical data on this point, some of it collected personally, is that administrators can be lying, sexist sacks of shit. Apologies for the legalese :>)


  8. Your calculation isn’t fine, at least to the economist in me, because it ignores present value. Assuming a discount rate of 5% then at the end of a 30 year career it’s “Brother, can you spare $220,000”, while at the start of one it’s “Brother, can you spare $49,000”.

    Halfway through it’s $105,000, or a bit less if you adjust for the chance you have of losing your job for strangling an insufferable economist.


  9. Pingback: IRENE KAORU » Blog Archive » Pack up your words and go home

  10. Since Corporate University (TM) is all about the money, honey, why haven’t colleges and universities figured out that it’s a lot cheaper to have/be an outstanding Liberal Arts college?

    Because the corporate university has a 50% overhead rate, meaning that the administration gets $250,000 to spend when the science prof gets a $500,000 grant.


  11. Pingback: It's your misfortune, and none of my own | Historiann

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