TPN Special Investigation: Gendered Wage Gap at College

In an investigation into the issue of a gendered wage gap among tenure track faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the data show that by itself there is a significant difference in salaries for males and females.

When statistically factoring in other variables, such as differences in base salaries for different departments and years of service to St. Mary’s, gender does not have a significant effect on salary above and beyond these other factors. However, gender is correlated with the departments that make less on average and to years of service. The departments that on average make less are more likely to have more women in them, and women are less likely to have more years of service teaching.

Specifically, there is a significant negative correlation between gender and years of service. This means that if the numerical variable that was assigned for gender goes ‘up’ (in these tests, males defined as ‘1’ and females as ‘2’) years of service goes down. Being male, then, is correlated with having more years of service at St. Mary’s.

There is also a significant negative correlation between gender and salary: as the variable for gender goes ‘up,’ salary goes down.

Furthermore, there is also a trending significance (i.e., almost significant difference) between gender and department base salaries. This means that if the variable for gender goes ‘up,’ base salaries go down.

Correlation tests examine variables and whether there is any similarity to the data. For example, looking at gender and salary, as salary goes up, gender goes ‘down.’

Gender was separated into male and female and rank was divided into assistant professor, associate professor and full professor, all tenure track or tenured positions. Listings of faculty salaries and rank came from the listings of current salaries of employees at the College which can be found at the library; this and all information used in this investigation are public records or publicly available.

Department base salary was used  as a variable because different departments are paid different amounts of money, and therefore do not have the same base salary. Salaries at St. Mary’s are set according to these types of averages. A base salary is the salary that professors start with when they start in a position. National averages were used as a “baseline” to compare across departments at St. Mary’s.

Department base salaries came from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website which records national averages of salary in different fields in higher education for 2010-2011. This variable was used to break up professors into departments and enable comparisons of salaries between departments.

For example, the national average base salary for new assistant professors in English departments is $51,786, and the base salary for new assistant professors in mathematics and statistics departments is $56,647.

Years of service at St. Mary’s came from the Academic Catalog website that lists faculty and the year they began teaching at St. Mary’s. This variable was included because of its possible influence on salary as a result of things like intermittent raises and other perks meant to retain faculty.

An independent samples t-test, a common statistical test used to test group differences, was run comparing salaries of males and females in tenure or tenure track positions at St. Mary’s. Results showed a significant difference between the average of the two groups. The mean of females’ salaries was significantly lower (a mean of $66,741) than males’ salaries (a mean of $73,970).

Though not tested for significance, there are differences in the number of males and females in ranks of assistant professor (49 percent female), associate professor (49 percent female), and full professor (39 percent female). There appears to be a gendered imbalance in the highest academic rank.

A stepwise regression with the independent variables years of service, department base salaries, and gender, with the dependent variable of salary, found that gender by itself is not a significant predictor of variance in salary above and beyond the effects of years of service and department base salaries.

Years of service and department base salary each had a significant effect on salary. Considering these two factors, gender doesn’t have a significant effect on how much an individual gets paid.

A stepwise regression, used to examine the relationship years of service, department base salaries, and gender have to overall salaries, is a test that examines gender as a variable related to salary after taking into account the effect of these other factors.

When looking at correlations between department base salary, years of service and gender, however, there are correlations between these variables. There is a very strong significant negative correlation between gender and years of service. This means that gender goes “up,” years of service goes down. There is also a significant negative correlation between gender and salary; if gender goes ‘up,’ or as you are more likely to be female, salary goes down. There is also a trending significance between gender and department base salaries; if base salaries go down, gender goes ‘up.’

Gender does not directly influence salary when taking into account the effects of these other variables. Indirectly, because of the connection between gender and years of service and the connection between gender and base salaries, gender may have an effect on salaries of individuals.

The College has also run tests analyzing the impact of gender on salary. Tom Botzman, vice president of business and finance, said in an email correspondence, “The study was conducted by the Office of Institutional Research [OIR]. The study is conducted annually using base salary as the dependent variable. Independent varialbes [sic] include academic field (department), academic rank, time in rank, and years at the College. We then run it again using a stepwise regression and add gender as a variable. Gender comes back as not significant, indicating no significant difference in salary based on gender as a predictive variable.”

This is the same test that was run for this investigation and came back with the same results. Botzman said that the OIR’s test “contains personnel information that we choose not to release as it identifies employees,” which is why that test was run separately for this investigation.

He also said that though gender is not a significant predictor in this test, this “doesn’t mean that there is not systemic difference or [that salary is] correlated with fields,” which is similar to the correlations and their possible impact on salary found in this investigation.

Looking at the base department salaries listed in The Chronicle for Higher Education, there are differences in average faculty salaries. In national averages, the departments that are paid most are the social sciences (anthropology, economics, sociology, political science), physical sciences (physics, chemistry) and biology; the lowest paid are the visual and performing arts (art, theater, music), English, and philosophy and religious studies.

At St. Mary’s the fields that have the most males are music, physics and economics, and the departments that have the smallest percentage of males are education, art, and sociology, anthropology and psychology.

Professor of history Christine Adams spoke in an interview about broader issues of salary disparity and its relation to gender. She said this issue is related to women in roles of domestic labor who then began to enter the professional workforce. She said, “domesticity [was] not valued for labor…[and this] bled into professions that were dominated by women.” In regards to investigations about gendered salary gaps, she said, “there will always be ways of explaining away any anomaly,” but, “I don’t think St. Mary’s consciously discriminates against women.”

She brought up other factors that may affect the variables that are connected to differences in salaries, such as the choice to have a child. “Some female faculty stop the tenure clock when they have children.”

Liberal arts associate and adjunct assistant professor of the liberal arts Andrew Cognard-Black, who specializes in studying gender and workplace dynamics and has researched job placement and compensation of academic personnel in higher education spoke about the broader issue of gendered salary differences in higher education. He said, “fields that tend to be dominated by women tend to have lower salaries,” and “liberal arts fields tend to make less” than vocational degrees in business, engineering, computer science, etc. because of market demand for those jobs.

Focusing specifically on the issue of gendered wage gaps among faculty at St. Mary’s, Jennifer Tickle, associate professor of psychology said, “the gender wage gap is not something the faculty have talked about much recently in light of more prominent discussions of salary freezes, furloughs, and wage comparisons to other institutions.”

If there are concerns among the faculty about differences in salary, whether based on gender or other issues, she said, “faculty members can request equity adjustment.” She added, however,  that she was “not aware of any equity adjustments that have been requested based on gender wage gaps.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Larry Vote said that faculty “process appeals directly to [the] Provost or me, vice president of academic affairs” about equity adjustments. The faculty member “must provide data…that supports an equity action.” He said there are usually six to ten requests for equity adjustment a year and that perceptions of equality come from “comparisons with peers” and are “focused more broadly on [characteristics such as] like years of service, colleagues in other departments,” rather than gender.

This investigation suggests that salary differences at St. Mary’s may not be directly related to an individual’s gender, but it does bring up other issues that indirectly relate gender to salary, such as the question of why women on average would have fewer years of service, why the fields that are dominated by women tend to pay less on average, and why there are fewer women in the higher academic ranks.

One possible explanation for the difference in tenure track and fewer years of service is the issue of childcare. Women may delay going for tenure in order to take care of or focus more on caring for children. If childcare was more available on college campuses for faculty, staff, and students, this could affect more women earning higher ranks and more years of service and therefore higher pay. This is an issue that merits further research.

Part of the issue may also be that base department salaries in higher education are set off of national averages of salaries. The article “Disciplinary Differences in Faculty Salaries,” published in  the Journal of Higher Education by Marcia Bellas, examined how gender might be related to disciplinary differences in higher education salaries. The paper concluded that the process of setting salaries by national averages do not adequately reflect labor market demand for certain positions and that the general cultural devaluation of women and work done by women may be reflected in setting salaries at individual schools, which is then reflected in the national averages. The author called for a reevaluation of the basis for setting salaries and more open discussion about faculty salaries in general, including the ability to address equity issues.

The purpose of this investigation is not to attack individuals at St. Mary’s or attempt to hurt the institution, but to create a space for discussion about the issues and variables that affect how individuals are compensated for their work.

For example, setting salaries by national averages may perpetuate gendered disparities in compensation. Another example is the lack of services such as childcare that may prevent females from being able to work at the same level as their male counterparts.

There are differences in the number of females and males in specific fields, how much individuals on average earn in those fields, the number of years that males and females serve at a college, and the number of males and females in higher ranked positions.

The purpose of this study is to question why those differences exist and what St. Mary’s, as an institution that values “diversity in all its forms, social responsibility and civic-mindedness” can do to counteract negative effects of a culture that has a tradition of devaluing work done by women.


Counter-Point: Theoretical Education Makes Students More Competitive

The college classroom is a place of irreplaceable pedagogical value. Its students leave with greater knowledge and greater opportunities. However, should the college classroom be place of practical teaching or theoretical teaching?

The college classroom should focus on the theory behind subjects rather than practical applications. There are two types of training as defined in the study of labor economics: (1) general training, defined as “training that once acquired is equally useful in all,”; and (2) specific training, defined as “training that enhances productivity only in for what it was acquired.”

In this respect, it is unwise and unjust for college students to focus their classroom learning on practical teachings as this is a form of “specific training.” The downside to specific training is that the investment is lost if the student changes jobs, location, etc.

As practical teachings must be specific and focused, students would be disadvantaged by only learning one form or one avenue of a certain subject. Furthermore, recent college graduates are purported to change jobs multiple times, especially in the first four years after graduation.

It is this reality that makes general training and a classroom focused on theory more attractive than the option discussed above. If students are taught a more broad and theory-based curriculum, then students are more competitive in the job market come graduation.

A theoretical and broad education allows students to enter into many different job markets, allowing more mobility, freedom, and opportunity. Whereas the specific training of practical teaching is lost when a student may change employment, the general training of theoretical teaching stays with a student through all jobs.

Higher education’s focus on theory has positively correlated with an increase in the wage premium of college graduates to high school graduates. By 2008, the wage premium for college graduates relative to high school graduates was roughly 100 percent.

The focus on theory and general training has not only increased competitiveness of college graduates, but also employer demand for college graduates Ergo, the wage of college graduates increases.

Examining the age-earnings profile of college graduates, the earnings over time of college graduates has a rather large progressive increase as age increases. Although the progressive increase would still exist with a focus on practical teachings or specific training, the absolute level of earnings would decrease because of the reasons discussed above.

Through this perspective of labor economics, it should be rather obvious that college students’ financial fortunes depend on their competitiveness in the labor market. This competitiveness is obtained through a theoretical education focused on the broad and general.