MCKELVEY: U.Va. is part of a larger gender inequality problem

The University must address the salary inconsistencies between male and female faculty


Across the board, female college and university faculty are underrepresented and underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. 

Tyra Krehbiel and Jacob Deane and Paige Hillman | Cavalier Daily

The Cavalier Daily recently released an article featuring data about the discrepancies in male and female faculty salaries here at the University. This report, based on data from a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that on average, female faculty earned $33,939 less than male faculty in 2018-2019. Furthermore, out of the 20 highest earning faculty members at the University, only 6 of them are women. Additionally, on average, male professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers earn more than their female counterparts. There exists only one academic rank in which female faculty tend to earn more than men — female instructors, who usually provide one-on-one teaching to students, are within the only academic rank to earn more than male faculty. The FOIA report does not necessarily take into account “different factors like education and tenure,” but does reveal the comparatively limited role of female employees in University faculty. 

While this report may be shocking, it reflects larger trends in higher education institutions. Across the board, female college and university faculty are underrepresented and underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. According to a study by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, among higher education administrators nationally, the gender pay gap is 80 cents to the dollar. This gap has only narrowed by three cents since 2001. Furthermore, this gap mirrors that of all full-time, year-round workers. According to the Pew Research Center, on average women are still only paid 85 cents to a man’s dollar. The same CUPA-HR study showed that the percentage of women in higher paying, prestigious positions dropped in comparison to other academic rankings. For example, only 40 percent of Chief Financial Officers at colleges and universities are women, and females in this position make only 77 cents for every dollar men make. 

Unfortunately, as shown in the Cavalier Daily report, the University is a perpetrator in this crucial issue. Perhaps this is most clearly exemplified in the salary differences between University President Jim Ryan and former President Teresa Sullivan. Ryan, as one of the highest-paid university presidents in the country, receives a base salary of $750,000 per year, compared to Sullivan’s base salary of $560,000 per year. Despite holding the same position, Ryan’s salary shows about a 34 percent increase in comparison to that of Sullivan. 

The University must take steps to become the exception to this discriminatory trend. 

In response to these findings, Abby Palko, director of the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, told The Cavalier Daily that, “the assumptions that go with gender run really, really deep.” When asked about an explanation for this trend, she noted that “the best curated research shows that you can account for some of it by choice of profession and some of it by parental status, but not all of it. Some of it can only be explained by gender.” Therefore, solving this deep-rooted problem will not be simple for the University. Higher educational institutions, such as U.Va., must take a step back and address their shortcomings in achieving gender equality for faculty. 

Ryan has put in place some policies that could help ease this inequality in the future. For example, in September 2018, he announced an expansion of paid parental leave for University faculty. This announcement expanded paid parental leave to full and part-time, eligible, salaried employees for eight weeks. Ryan’s action followed Northam’s executive order in June, which guarantees paid leave for all state employees. Most notably, this leave is available to male and female parents. This expansion is especially significant because policies such as these that encourage paternity leave have shown to help reduce this gendered pay gap. 

Nevertheless, University administration can do more to ensure that women’s contributions to the University are compensated at the same rate as their male counterparts. For example, more salary transparency is necessary for the University to monitor this issue annually. Additionally, while the University provides childcare to students and employees through the Child Development Center, providing information about child care assistance programs by the Commonwealth of Virginia would encourage the success of female faculty. Hopefully the University will one day serve as an example of gender equality in institutions of higher education. 

Victoria McKelvey is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

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