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Studies suggest wage gaps persist on Prairie campuses

By in News
While campuses have made strides toward wage equality, two recent studies suggest they still have a way to go.
In the wake of two recent studies, Canadian universities are being encouraged to look at wage equality between their male and female instructors.

Professors Laura Brown, Elizabeth Troutt and Susan Prentice of the University of Manitoba conducted an independent study of wage equality at their institution, titled “Ten Years After: Sex and Salaries at a Canadian University,” which gathered data from a 1993 study and from 2003 records of wages.

“Overall, there is a wage differential that existed in 1993 and persisted in 2003,” Brown said. “While it has gone down, [the decrease is] not actually statistically significant.”

Brown admitted the age of the data is a problem, but said neither the university nor the union, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association, keep rigorous records of wages and promotions.

“At least if you have to face the fact of what you’re doing, then I think that you can start trying to be more even,” she said. “The major thing is if they at least started paying attention.”

While women at the U of M made gains in both salaries and in the proportion of upper-level professors they comprised, these increases were “not enough to make things anywhere near even,” according to Brown.

The highest level of academia at the U of M is full professor, which has a maximum salary of $139,000 per year. In 1993, just seven per cent of full professors were women. By 2003, that number had only increased to 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, women make up the majority of instructors, for whom the highest level of pay is $97,000 per year at the senior instructor level. The pay scale for instructors is generally about 40 per cent below that of professors, Brown explained, because their “job is seen as only teaching, although they regularly do administrative duties and some of them actually do conduct research.”

The U of M has noted its concern with the wage gap study. Leah Janzen, associate director of marketing and communications at the U of M, indicated the administration has “significant issues” with the researchers’ methodology.

“This study does not allow for consideration of a number of factors related to salary, which we feel are important to include — such things as years since PhD, the discipline the person is working in, the classification they’re working under, market conditions for that particular area of study,” she said. “As you factor in those considerations, the differences in salaries shrink.”

Janzen added that the collective agreement between the university and the faculty association includes provisions on equality in salaries and other areas, and that the administration has a committee in place that reviews salary discrepancies annually.

“We have what we believe is a strong equity policy in place and one that has checks and balances included within it,” she said.

Another recent study that investigated wage discrepancies was released by Statistics Canada, which looked at wage equality at 29 institutions across the country. The study found that the largest wage gap exists at the University of Calgary, where male professors make an average of $20,168 more than their female counterparts.

University of Calgary history professor Betsy Jameson attributes this to a combination of lower starting salaries, fewer women professors campus-wide and the different ways in which male and female careers are likely to progress.

“I had a slightly odd career path myself,” Jameson said with a chuckle. “I found myself in a new job in my early 40s with a toddler.”

Feeling overwhelmed, Jameson brought this up with then-president of the American Historical Association Louise Tilly, whom Jameson said “smiled sweetly and said, ”˜You don’t understand, dear. You’re measuring yourself against a male career path. They do their best work in their 30s. We do our best work in our 50s.’”

Whether or not this is true, Jameson said it is important for universities to recognize that women often spend more time as sessional lecturers or part-time instructors, and that this should be taken into account when hiring or assigning salaries.

The U of C also raised some issues with the study in which they were mentioned, noting that several other large Canadian campuses were not included, but indicated they are looking into the matter.

“The University of Calgary is committed to examining the data and reviewing this issue,” senior communications manager James Stevenson said in an email. “The review will be led by the university’s new provost and vice-president academic, Dru Marshall, who started two weeks ago. The review will be initiated this academic year.”

When asked if they felt their respective administrations were committed to bridging these gaps, Brown and Jameson had very different answers.

“I don’t know what their commitment is,” Brown said of the U of M. “To be honest, I don’t think anyone in our society is truly committed to wage equality. There are efforts being made, but I’m not sure they’re adequate.”

Jameson, on the other hand, was optimistic.

“I did not believe that the previous administration was committed to rectifying [the wage gap]. The current administration, I think, very well may be,” she said, noting the recent arrival of Elizabeth Cannon as the new U of C president.

“[Cannon] has been extraordinarily proactive in supporting women in the sciences and engineering,” Jameson said. “And she’s the first woman president at the university, so many of us are hopeful.”

With files from Emma Godmere

photo: The Advocacy Project

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