UI officials to conduct faculty gender gap study

BY JENNY EARL | MAY 01, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa officials will soon conduct a study aimed at revealing any gender-based pay discrepancies at the school, which experts said could stem from occupational choices and education.

"We want to be able to say that the same-level position, same credentials, there's not one [professor] making more than the other," said Tom Rice, a UI associate provost, who helped organize the study.

UI statistics Professor Russell Lenth, who will conduct the research, said he has been provided a snapshot of all UI faculty salaries who have different responsibilities. He will then develop a statistical model over a few weeks based on variables such as age, faculty rank, and department, using gender as an input variable to see if there's still a gender discrepancy after adjusting all other variables.

"If we do find evidence of bias, we'll conduct another analysis, and we'll do some targeted interviews in those areas to see if there's something else that might explain it," Rice said.

The last UI gender-equity report was conducted May 2006; it found women faculty are more likely to be in departments with lower overall salaries. The study found the UI arts and humanities departments had the highest percentage of women faculty, 50 percent, and they earned the least of all UI departments.

Women faculty in the social sciences made up roughly one-third of the faculty and made middle-range salaries. Women faculty members in the math, science, law, engineering, and business fields made up 15 percent of the faculty and earned the highest salaries.

The report suggested UI officials should hire more women in higher-paying fields to increase faculty diversity.

In 2006, 662 female and 1,432 males were tenured, clinical, and research faculty members at the UI.

As of 2011, UI tenured, tenure-track, clinical-track, and research-track faculty — who make an average of $123,695, which is $49,802 higher than associate professors — had 37 percent women.

Catherine Hill, the director of research for the American Association of University Women, agreed women are more likely to pursue lower-paying fields of study — though that doesn't explain the gap entirely.

"We also find an element not explained by factors that we know expect earnings," she said. "There's an unexplained part of the pay gap, assumptions that people make about one another when they make hiring or promotion decisions."

The 2006 UI study also found the number of women who were full professors between 1995 and 2004 only increased from 10.5 percent to 17.1 percent. The disproportionately high numbers of men hired at full professor rank, lower percentage of women to be full professors, and the resignation rate among women associate professors contributed to the slow increase, the report said.

The complexity of the upcoming equity research make gathering statistics difficult, Rice said, but once completed, officials plan to use the study for further pay level research.

UI officials said in the coming years a gender gap study will likely be conducted annually.

Lenth said analysis like this will help the UI make progress toward better gender equality.

"We don't expect — or at least I don't expect the picture to come out perfect this year or any other year, but you can look at it and see if you're making progress," he said.

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