UBC giving 2 per cent raise to all tenure-stream female faculty

Pay gap a concern at other universities, including Western, McGill
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/11/2013

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has decided to give every tenure-track and tenured female faculty member a two per cent raise to address gender pay inequity.

The initiative is the result of several internal pay equity studies that found full-time female professors were receiving $14,000 less than their male counterparts. Once confounding factors were taken into consideration, there was still a $3,000 gap between genders — which works out to about two per cent of an annual salary, said Rachel Kuske, senior advisor to the provost on women faculty at UBC in Vancouver.

“When you remove factors like what faculty you’re in, what rank you’re at, how many years you were in a particular position — which of course would cause differences — and remove all of those, then what was left… was unexplained by any of the other factors, so it could only be contributed to gender,” she said.

The increases are retroactive to July 1, 2010, and will be given to about 880 tenure-stream female faculty — a move that will cost the university more than $2 million this year alone.

The university decided to give raises en masse to every female professor — even those with high salaries — because the studies took a broad look at pay inequity, so a broad response was needed, said Kuske.

But UBC did consider the ways other universities have addressed gender pay gaps, such as determining on an individual basis which professors are “below the line” and giving increases only to them.

“Case studies and ‘below the line’ aren’t perfect either and they introduce some other issues, such as forcing people to negotiate again about their salaries or that it takes a long time to administer,” said Kuske.

Western University takes different approach

In 2006, Western University in London, Ont., undertook an assessment of professors’ salaries and found strikingly similar results as UBC: Men were paid $14,000 more than women and after making adjustments for other factors, there was still a gap of $2,200.

To address this, the university took an individualized approach — different amounts were distributed to different individuals to bring them up to where they needed to be, said Alan Weedon, vice-provost (academic planning, policy and faculty) at Western.

“In our analyses, we find some faculty, men and women, are being paid more than you might have expected given their experience and accomplishments and so it wouldn’t seem particularly fair to increase them more. So we haven’t done across-the-board increases, we’ve done it individually,” he said.

As a result of the 2006 assessment, 91 per cent of the female assistant professors at Western received an average salary adjustment of $4,000; 57 per cent of female associate professors received an average of $2,400; and 72 per cent of female full professors received an average of $2,800.

To address pay equity concerns at McGill University in Montreal, department chairs and directors can make recommendations to their dean about female faculty they feel are not being paid equitably, said Lydia White, associate provost (policies, procedures and equity).

“There are certainly female professors at McGill who are very concerned about the pay equity situation,” she said. “But there is a redress. You don’t have to wait… you can go to your chair and say, ‘Could you please check and if my salary is disproportionally low, could you make a recommendation?’ and I know female professors have done that.”

One factor that plays a part in pay inequity at universities is the under-representation of women at the full professor level. At UBC, women account for 38 per cent of assistant and associate professors, compared to 21 per cent of full professors.

This is also an issue at Western and other universities across the country, as it’s largely historical, said Weedon.

“Our full professors are senior faculty who were hired at a time when not as many women were entering the academic profession, so there’s a natural lag in representation which is being resolved as people retire.”

About 95 per cent of Western’s retirees are male and they are being replaced by cohorts that are about 45 per cent female, said Weedon.

But the promotion rates of women into full professor positions also need to be considered, said Kuske.

“There are various factors of hiring and promotion that get mixed into everything and then it’s very hard to separate those out,” she said. “That’s why it’s important not just to adjust pay but other practices that will indirectly affect pay.”

Women are also under-represented in the higher ranks at McGill — with 30 per cent of full professors being female — so the university has held sessions to address this issue, said White.

“We get the feeling some women are holding back from coming forward for promotion, so we’re letting people know what they should be doing in terms of getting ready for promotion. We’re also talking to deans and chairs (to say) that they should be encouraging their female professors to come forward,” she said.

Different faculties can have an impact

Some of the pay differential among professors can also be attributed to the different faculties. For example, 6.6 per cent of male faculty members are in the high-paying faculty of commerce at UBC versus 3.3 per cent of female faculty members.

This is of particular concern to McGill because it has determined the different departments and faculties are playing a big role in the fact that female assistant professors are being paid significantly less than their male counterparts, said White.

“Starting salaries are not uniform across different disciplines and it so happens there are certain disciplines that are still predominantly male and where market forces command a higher salary, for example, in certain disciplines within management, engineering or economics,” she said.

Changes to recruitment process

To address this issue, McGill is encouraging the recruitment of female professors by educating chairs and deans about how to take equity issues into consideration when hiring, said White.

UBC is undergoing a similar process, said Kuske.

“We now make sure all of our hiring and faculty search committees go through an orientation process where they understand how to recruit diversely and how to use best practices in reviewing files — so unconscious bias doesn’t creep in during the process — and make sure they’re looking to hire strong, diverse candidates.”

Western University has policies in place requiring those responsible for hiring to make an effort to ensure candidates are chosen from a large, representative applicant pool, said Weedon.

“If we’re hiring in a discipline where it’s known in the general pool of potential applicants there are perhaps 40 per cent women, then we would expect 40 per cent of the applications we get to be from women and if they’re not, then we ask them to try harder — basically re-advertise,” he said.

To help monitor pay equity, UBC has improved its data-tracking procedures, including data on starting salaries, merit pay, retention pay and consumer price index (CPI) adjustments.

It is also looking to establish more mentorship opportunities for female faculty and is working with a number of groups across campus to support overall equity and diversity, said Kuske.

“We’re making sure we have practices in place that promote the advancement, hiring, recruitment and equity among faculty so that we don’t slip back into the pay differential.”


Mind the gap

Recommendations for addressing gender pay gap

Starting salaries: Develop UBC principles and guidelines on starting salaries free of gender bias; provide short-listed tenure-track faculty candidates with salary and compensation for relevant positions during selection process; conduct annual audits.

Equity training: Provide training for deans, heads and directors, as well as search committees.

Mentoring: Establish mentoring offices; generate and maintain written material describing the mentoring program.

Working climate and equity initiatives: Create senior advisor to the provost focusing on women faculty; initiate working climate/equity studies; develop implementation plan for Valuing Difference strategy, focused on women faculty.

Monitoring and accountability: Conduct annual employment equity and periodic pay equity audits; require equity office to report to key groups; review and revise governance structures for faculty-related gender equity issues at UBC.

Source: Report of the Gender Pay Equity Recommendation Committee, July 2012, UBC

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