A gender gap in faculty salaries

Females hold few high-paying positions, lack tenure at the University

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Information released to The Cavalier Daily by the University under the Freedom of Information Act containing faculty and administration salaries for the 2015-16 academic year shows two women — across all divisions — in the top 20 earners at the University. Those two women are President Teresa Sullivan, who is fifth on the list, and Katherine Peck, chief operating officer of the Medical School, who is 15th on the list.

Narrowing down the list to the top 10 salaries in each of the University’s 10 schools, the College, the Commerce School and the Engineering School have zero women in their top 10 salary earners. The Darden School of Business and the Medical School only have one female faculty member in the top 10.

How salaries are established

Salaries have increased across the board by an average three percent for the past three years, according to the University’s Budget Office. In 2011-12, staff received a 2 percent increase, and in the three years prior received 0 percent increases in their normal salaries, while those on the Virginia Retirement System received 5 percent increases. This VRS increase occurred only once in the 2011-12 academic year.

With the recent economic recession, 0 percent increases had become a harsh reality before the 2013-14 annual increases came into effect. Even with those increases, women hold fewer top-earning faculty spots. Salary determinants for all entry-level faculty at the University are widespread, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Kerry Abrams said.

“Nationally, salary ranges vary considerably by field and our salaries, like salaries at other universities, reflect those differences,” Abrams said in an email statement. “Once faculty are members of the faculty at U.Va., they are eligible for annual merit raises in years that raises have been approved by the Commonwealth.”

As part of the budget authorization, Virginia annually offers across-the-board increases to staff and merit increases to faculty within state higher education institutions, Abrams said.

“The University then awards increases to faculty salary based on performance,” Abrams said.

The University’s salaries range from $11,220 per year, which Aaron Mackey earns as an assistant professor in the Medical School, to $721,000 per year, which Richard Shannon earns as the executive vice president for Health Affairs of the Medical School.

Graphic By Humza Mohammad and Lily Park

Salary breakdown by gender

In 2012, the University’s former Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon appointed a Faculty Salary Study Task Force to conduct an examination of faculty salaries at the University. This task force had eight members, as well as five legal and administrative members who were there in an ex officio capacity, or by virtue of their position or status.

The University’s report showed differences in salary by gender and a lower percentage of female faculty who received tenure. With Sullivan at the helm, the University is working to combat these problems, Abrams — one of the members working in an ex officio capacity — said.

“Our active recruitment efforts include efforts to recruit women at the highest levels, including administrative positions and endowed chairs,” Abrams said. “Recruiting more women to these positions would, over time, change the number of women earning the top salaries at U.Va. … In addition, our efforts to foster the development of our current female faculty should increase over time the number of ‘homegrown’ senior women.”

Even with these efforts, many of the women contacted for an interview for this article declined out of fear of repercussions, as most of them do not have tenure. Denise Walsh, associate professor of Politics and Women, Gender and Sexuality, said there are a number of reasons why female faculty might be hesitant to speak.

“People may be reluctant to comment because they are concerned about legal issues or because they do not consider themselves well informed enough about the legal ramifications of their comments,” Walsh said in an email statement. “Others may be concerned about generating controversy for the University or for themselves.”

According to the task force report, the difference in salaries for female assistant professors compared to male assistant professors ranged from -3 percent to 7 percent. This gender difference changes dramatically for associate professors, full professors and tenured faculty. For female associate professors, the gender difference ranges from -9 percent to 0 percent. For full professors, it ranges from -7 percent to 1 percent, and for tenured professors it ranges from about -6 percent to 0 percent.

What this means for representation

Of the tenured professors surveyed by the task force, 260 out of 904 were women. Most University programs had less than 50 percent female faculty representation. Specifically, women were poorly represented in fields such as engineering and law, with 15.1 percent 22.7 percent, respectively.

Dora Illei, a fourth-year College student and president of Feminism is for Everyone, said she thinks this deficit in diversity shows “who is the most valuable” at the University.

“The problem is that it gives a very narrow representation of the University, but it also shows a lack of support for certain groups of people at the University,” Illei said.

Some of this issue lies in the difficulty of getting tenure and the way in which it given, Illei said.

“I don't know the details financially of how that is organized, but I think the administration should look at the way funds are divided between the departments and decided [and] how this is affecting pay between gender,” Illei said. “They also should look at field and tenure. I don’t think it can be changed until the University and administration acknowledged that it is an issue.”

While women may be underrepresented in the University’s top leadership roles, Walsh said she hopes Sullivan’s position as the first female president of the University inspires faculty and students to see women as leaders.

“Do I think that by having a woman president people talk differently about women faculty? The answer is no,” Walsh said. “Do I think that having a woman president is important? Yes … I hope that it inspires all of us to do everything we can to diversify leadership and faculty, and most importantly, to challenge discrimination wherever we may find it.”

Marcus L. Martin, vice president and chief officer for Diversity and Equity, declined to comment for this story.

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