Gender inequity persists at University

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The University has made little progress to correct the gender inequities identified by the 2008 Gender Equity Report.
The report made by a provost’s task force found inequities for female faculty in overall representation, pay and promotion and retention rates.

Provost Steven Leslie created the 22-member faculty and administrator task force in 2007 to identify barriers facing female faculty at UT and to make recommendations to correct these barriers. The report did not offer a plan to address gender inequality, but it set a deadline for UT to create its own plans by fall 2009.

The pay gap between male and female professors has narrowed 1 percent since the 2007/2008 Gender Equity Report, and the number of female tenure and tenure track faculty rose by 3 percent from 2007 to 2010.

When adjusted for pay differences by field, the 2008 report only found pay gaps on the full professor level. In 2007, female full professors made just more than 95 cents for every dollar male professors made, and by 2010, that rose to just more than 96 cents.

Full professors, who are eligible to advance to department chair or dean positions and who can receive appointments to endowed chairs, also primarily make up the various academic departments’ budget councils. These councils make hiring, promotion and tenure decisions along with department chairs and deans.

Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, an associate journalism professor, said entrenched underrepresentation of women at the full professor level affects women’s ability to advance because predominantly male budget councils may not see the contributions to the University female faculty make.

“Talking about all the ranks as if it’s a basic similarity masks a lot of the difficulty a lot of women are facing because of the way the full professor rank can really fast-track your career,” de Uriarte said. “When you have all men making decisions, you don’t see the contributions women make that are different than men but still equally important.”

De Uriarte said because faculty put a percentage of their salaries into interest-earning retirement funds, past pay gaps grow over time even if the current pay gaps disappear. She also said hiring new female professors rather than promoting within the existing UT ranks may correct overall statistical inequities but doesn’t help professors affected at the time of the report.

Since the gender report made the recommendation to do so, the provost’s office has posted a web page explaining “family-friendly” policies for faculty.

Mary Rose, an assistant sociology professor, said she has benefited from a number of these policies. She said she was hired through the spousal hire program, which allows the University to retain professors married to other academics by hiring their spouses. In 2005, she took unpaid leave to have her first child because of uncertainty about the University’s then-newly modified work program. By 2009, when she had her second child, she said the policies were more understood and accepted by the faculty. In 2009, she continued her research and took a semester off from teaching as part of the program.

“The other way I’ve been helped is day care, which I couldn’t live without,” Rose said.

Limited money in the University budget has constrained efforts to correct UT’s institutional gender inequities by promoting existing professors or hiring new faculty. Other suggestions in the gender equity report that have gone unheeded don’t have a budgetary component, said Susan Heinzelman, associate English professor, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and a member of the University Gender Council.

The Gender Council is an advisory group to the president and provost that promotes the goals and recommendations of the Gender Equity Report. One recommendation the council promotes that only five schools have completed is the creation of websites addressing gender equity issues on the college level.

“Some of those [report recommendations,] like college equity websites and college equity councils, should already be in existence. They cost no money, so it’s not a budget issue, but they do take faculty time, and they have to be made a priority by the deans,” Heinzelman said. “We need more direct pressure from the senior administration to change some of the institutional habits that keep the old hierarchies and privileges in place: One such example would be the lack of transparency at the college and departmental levels on salary discussions and hiring and budget priorities.”