Gender wage difference persists at Dartmouth
By Lindsay Ellis, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, October 26, 2012
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2012 faculty salary survey reported that Dartmouth’s wage gap between genders was the Ivy League’s widest for full professors. Still, the issue has not sparked significant campus dialogue, College professors and administrators said.
Female full professors at Dartmouth earn 84 percent of what their male counterparts make, according to the survey, which used data from the American Association of University Professors. Other Ivy League institutions’ figures range from Harvard University and Yale University’s 93 percent to Columbia University and Princeton University’s 89 percent. Fewer women in higher-paying fields and the College’s rural location contribute to the gap, which would shrink if variables like years at the College were factored into the data, those interviewed by The Dartmouth said.
“This is a very small college, and when you start talking about the wage gap issue with any specificity, real people come to mind, which makes people uncomfortable for obvious reasons,” Center for Women and Gender Director Jessica Jennrich said.
Public universities publish their salaries annually, unlike the College and other private institutions, according to sociology professor Janice McCabe. This privacy eliminates some discussion regarding wages, according to history professor emeritus Marysa Navarro, who was the College’s first tenured female professor.
“You never know what your neighbor earns,” she said. “You have the general range, but you would never know exactly if you were discriminated against because you were a woman.”
History professor Annelise Orleck said that a group of male and female faculty members tried to investigate the gender wage gap about 10-15 years ago. Professors in this group chose to publish their salaries, according to Orleck.
“It probably would serve us all better if salaries are public, but everyone is so used to operating in this secretive, one-on-one way, and we shouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t benefit us equally,” she said.
Orleck said she was disturbed but not surprised by The Chronicle of Higher Education’s findings.
“There are a number of pay inequities on campus, and this is only one of them,” she said, pointing to salary gaps between administrators and between professors in different fields. “It suggests a retrograde mindset on the part of the people who make salaries at Dartmouth.”
Dean of the Faculty Michael Mastanduno said he perceived Dartmouth’s faculty to be more concerned with wage competition with peer institutions than internal wage gaps.
Economics professor Patricia Anderson, who has worked at the College for 21 years, said that although Dartmouth has focused on keeping its salaries competitive with peer institutions, she cannot recall any campus initiatives to close the gender wage gap.
“If the College feels it has a strong interest in maintaining gender comparability, then sure, do something about it,” she said. “But the big question is, are you losing good people? You want to make sure you’re getting the strongest faculty you can get, and compensation is part of that.”
Every three years, the Provost’s Office analyzes professors’ salaries for differences that cannot be explained by variables like the professors’ field and years at Dartmouth, Evelynn Ellis, president of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, said.
The College also reports to the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program, which can audit the College and examine its documents at any time.
The most recent OFCCP analysis looked for race and gender discrimination in salary practices and reported its results to the College about two months ago, Ellis said.
The results — which stated that professional field and length of time at the College can explain differences in salary between gender — paralleled those of the most recent provost analysis, Ellis said.
Ellis said that the College’s wider gap as compared to its peer institutions does not surprise her because of Dartmouth’s smaller funds.
Because academic institutions compete with other industries for professors in technical fields, economics, business and engineering professors can be paid more, Anderson said. Professors in humanities-related fields may not have as many professional alternatives, she said.
These higher-paid departments are largely male-dominated, which heightens the gender wage gap, according to professor of mathematics and social sciences emeritus Robert Norman.
To mitigate this, these departments must more actively recruit women, according to Norman, who works with the College’s Women in Science Project.
“In the past, they didn’t get women because they didn’t recruit for them,” Norman said. “We need to make it sound attractive to come. That’s something Dartmouth can do across the board.”
The College’s rural location may serve to widen the gender wage gap, Anderson said.
Anderson said in an email to The Dartmouth that she expects that more female professors have a faculty spouse than do male professors, citing the small size of the Upper Valley’s labor market and the fact that it is less “culturally acceptable” for a man to exit the labor market than a woman.
This limits the negotiating power of female faculty members because a female faculty member and her spouse would both have to find alternative offers at another institution to negotiate a higher salary from the College, whereas a male faculty member would be less likely to have this problem, she said.
The wage gap reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education does not account for time teaching at the College, Ellis said.
“In 20 years, this probably won’t be an issue,” she said. “You’re going to have as many tenured women as you have tenured men.”
Faculty members annually present their records to academic deans and the dean of the faculty to determine salary adjustments, which are based on teaching quality, scholarly output and service to the College, according to Mastanduno.
“A lot of people have the impression that if there are two people who are full professors, and they’ve been here the same amount of time, they should be paid the same amount,” he said. “It rarely happens that way in academics.”
These yearly discussions involve cross comparisons, Mastanduno said.
“When you’re settling salary, you sit down and look at someone roughly equivalent,” he said. “Are they in the same range? If not, why not? You’re always vigilant at looking at kinds of disparities to make sure everything is as fair as possible.”
If an individual faculty member thought his or her salary showed discriminatory practices, he or she would likely speak with Mastanduno first and would later turn to the IDE, Ellis said. The IDE would then conduct a salary review by looking at the professor’s salary compared to others in his or her field, level of professorship, area of expertise and years practicing, Ellis said.
After this analysis, Ellis said she would ask Mastanduno about the faculty member’s productivity, service to the College and quality of teaching.
Ellis said she has not seen such a case since she joined the IDE.
When it was founded in 1988, the Center for Women and Gender served as a resource for female faculty members to discuss tenure procedures and promotion, Jennrich said.
Because the center’s purpose has since evolved to also serve students, faculty members turn to the IDE or within their own departments for support and information regarding wages, she said.
“I wouldn’t say the need is less, but the need has transferred a bit,” Jennrich said.