The Gender Gap in the Pay of Faculty & Librarians

by Michael D. Ornstein

Originally published in Active Voice, September 95.

Editor's. Note: This material was prepared for the Sept 29th Report on Pay Equity. The material on faculty responds to De Robertis' letter.

Faculty and Librarians

Efforts to achieve pay equity involve different issues for librarians and faculty. Most important, faculty are in a more complex administrative environment, being spread across many departments in many faculties. Also women faculty are spread over many different administrative units, rarely forming a majority but also rarely absent altogether. For these reasons the two groups are affected differently by the Pay Equity Act.

The salary statistics presented here are drawn from research by Georges Monette, who has acted as a neutral party in helping guide the negotiations. The figures refer to pay in the 1993-94 academic year. Conducting the same analysis for this academic year would involve the same salaries (thanks to the Social Contract) but could be substantially affected by newly-hired librarians and faculty and by retirements.

In any effort to remedy gender inequity in pay, generational issues are critically important. Raising the pay of people who are close to retirement has only a short-term salary cost, while substantially raising their pension entitlements. Also it is likely that gender differences in pay have varied over time, so that particular cohorts of employees are better and worse off


Under the Pay Equity Act, librarians are a "female-dominated job class," so that achieving equity depends on comparing them with another group of employees . It also means that any pay adjustment will be awarded equally to female and male librarians. Both in the context of the Act and historically in negotiations at York, it has always been assumed that the appropriate comparison is between librarians' pay and average pay of faculty, with the same number of years of service.

Analysis by Georges Monette shows that there is a "curvilinear" relationship between librarians' and faculty pay, such that librarians who have been employed for less than 10 years and librarians with very long service are worse off. Librarians in the middle - with roughly 10 to 35 years of service - earn an average of about 85 percent of faculty members with the same number of years of service. Shorter and longer serving librarians average between about 72 and 80 percent of faculty pay, again assuming equivalent years of service.

What cannot be estimated from the presently-available computer data files is the extent to which librarians with unusually strong qualifications, such as an MA in a substantive area as well as a Master's-level library degree, receive more pay as a result (remember, obtaining an additional degree has the cost of delaying the beginning of one's employment).

Negotiations have focused on three issues: "straightening the line" (a reference to a regression line) in order to place short-, medium-, and long- service librarians in the same position, relative to faculty; on increasing the overall average pay of librarians relative to faculty; and on compensation for additional relevant qualifications.


Understanding the gender gap in faculty salaries is hugely complicated by differences between the two groups. For example, men are older, on average, and are paid more as a result, since the salary structure rewards seniority. Men are more likely to be in certain disciplines, and there are differences in the pay of departments (and, at York, between faculty members in the same departments of different faculties). A statistical technique known as "multiple regression" is the standard procedure for understanding the effects of many "competing" factors on an outcome, such as the effects of personal job characteristics on pay. On average, women earn $12,865 per year less than men faculty. A bit more than half the difference is due to differences in seniority, so that the gradual retirement of older male faculty will substantially reduce the gender gap. The factors affecting gender differentials in pay identified in Georges Monette's regression analysis and their impact on the gender differences are as follows:
    Gender itself                               $1,270
    Years full-time university teaching          6,665 
    Rank                                         2,745
    Department                                     584 
    Being hired as an associate professor          198 
    Being hired as a full professor                867
    Unusually quick promotion to full professor    422
    Having held high administrative positions       95
    Three unusual salaries ("outliers")             18

    Total                                      $12,865 

For example, the "cost" to women of their being more likely to teach in lower paying departments, accounting for all other factors, is $584. At issue is whether the $584 reflects market differentials or discrimination. In the language of the Pay Equity Act, the question is which factors are "gender neutral" and which are not. There is general agreement that rank is not gender neutral because one cannot assume that the procedures for promotion from associate to full professor are unbiased.

The results of this (and any) regression analysis are potentially biased by the exclusion from the model of factors which influence pay, either because the factor has not been measured or because of a decision not to include it in the model.

Professor Monette notes that using years of full-time university teaching as a measure of experience "gives no weight to relevant prior experience other than full-time university teaching. Since women might have a greater tendency to come to university teaching through alternate routes, e.g. part-time teaching, it could be preferable to devise a way of giving fair credit for such experience." Other faculty who are likely to be adversely affected if pay levels only credit university teaching experience are those faculty who begin teaching after a career in high school teaching, a profession, or artistic performance. No measures of prior experience other than university teaching are available in the computerized database; nor is it certain that scanning the personnel records would provide such information. To compensate such experience fairly, a means for individual faculty (both female and male) to claim such credit is required. A complicating factor is that some faculty members were able to bargain effectively (usually with their deans) for higher initial pay on the basis of their non-university experience, while others were not.

In any settlement it is critical to recognize that the difference in the pay of women and men is much greater for older faculty members.

There is no agreement from the York administration that the gender differences revealed by the regression analysis - anywhere between $3500 and $6000 depending on one's point of view - actually exist. Furthermore, the Administration's interpretation of the Act is that even if there is gender discrimination of this magnitude, there is no mandated requirement to remove it.

The only financial offer from the Administration reflects the view that the gender differential is no more than the $1270 figure (economists use the expression "pure discrimination" to describe it) which results from holding all other factors constant. Many of the factors which are systematically removed in the regression model actually embody systemic discrimination. In the huge literature on pay differentials, there is essentially no support for the view that the figure for "pure discrimination" is anything like a reasonable assessment of the extent of gender differences.

A somewhat different approach to analyzing gender differences would look for "outliers," that is for women faculty whose pay is low compared to men. There would be a serious problem deciding which male faculty members are appropriate "comparators" for each particular woman. This procedure would identify women who are poorly paid relative to similar men in their departments, but would not help women in low pay departments.

While it appears that the gender difference between women and men in the alternate stream is much smaller than in the professional stream, detailed analysis of such gender differences has not been done.