Higher Education and the Wage Gap

wage gap

Wage gap illustrationHigher education is an industry in which we assume equality is at the forefront of people’s minds. After all, this is the sector which champions truth and knowledge. It should challenge misconceptions and subconscious biases which lead to discrimination of any kind.

Yet, a report published by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) shows the stark reality of the situation – at the top levels of higher education is a perpetuating wage gap.

The report, entitled The Gender Pay Gap and the Representation of Women in Higher Education Administrative Positions: The Century So Far, found that female administrators earn only 80 cents for every US dollar made by male administrators. This statistics have not changed significantly since the turn of the century. In fact, in the last 15 years, the gap has closed by only three cents.

This wage gap echoes the wider gender gap found across most of the USA, where women earn 79 cents for every dollar made by men, on average. So, despite the perception of higher education as a ‘forward-thinking’ sector, in this regard it mirrors other industries.

Lower pay, fewer jobs

In only a minuscule amount of executive positions in academia do women hold more than half of the jobs, and these positions tend to be found in areas typically seen to be female dominated, such as human resources, libraries, public relations and student affairs.

The further up the chain you go, the fewer women hold positions. Whereas middle management and department heads are frequently female, the most senior positions are dominated by men. University presidents, for example, are overwhelmingly male – women make up less than a third of these positions. For CIOs and CAAs (chief information officers and chief athletics administrators), the proportion is less than a fifth.

These numbers look even more significant when you learn that women make up half of all higher education administrators in the USA.

Efforts were being made

The CUPA-HR study suggests that, despite a push in the early 2000s for equal pay, initiatives to close the wage gap ground to a halt in and around 2007. It is suggested that the global recession may have been a catalyst for this – specifically, a downturn in educational funding to bankroll initiatives coupled with the fact that women and minorities are often found to suffer more during periods of economic instability.

It seems certain that renewed efforts must now be made in the industry to reach true equality, close the wage gaps, and encourage a more diverse senior-management system which is representative of the population.

Interested in finding out more? Take a look at how International Women’s Day was celebrated at campuses around the world.

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